Gerry’s Postbox — August 2017

Four letters in August from Gerry’s Postbox

 

1)

Dear Gerry,

Thank you for your recent letter.

I agree with you that a General Election is close, likely this Autumn or next Spring. Like you, I believe the Irish electorate is unlikely to give any one political party an overall majority, in which case a coalition government is inevitable.

I agree with you too that our party, Fianna Fáil is the natural coalition partner for yours, sharing not a little of common history (after all, our party’s founders were members of your party before they left it. Our principal founder had been President of your party!).

However, there are a number of factors operating against such a partnership, not least is which we have to remain top dogs in any coalition and some of our people are not sure that you wouldn’t be nibbling at our heels, trying to get into the top position for yourselves. I am only telling you what some people think, you understand.

Then there’s the spoils of power. Again, we have powerful supporters who are not happy to share the loot, if I can put in those terms, just as a joke, ha, ha, ha. And they say that some of your people are hungry.

So, for the moment, Gerry a chara, the answer has to be no, go raibh maith agat. But in future, who knows? A week is a long time in politics, they say – but months?

You will understand I’m sure why this letter is in printed text and why I cannot sign it.

All the best for now.

 

2)

Dear Gerry,

Thank you for your recent letter.

I agree with you that a General Election is close. Like you, I also believe the bloody Irish electorate is once again (!) unlikely to give any one political party an overall majority — so a coalition government is inevitable.

Despite our historical difference I agree with you too that Fine Gael is the natural coalition partner for yours, sharing not a little of history (leaving aside that little misunderstanding 1922-1923).

However, I can foresee a number of difficulties in contemplating such a partnership. Some of your people hate our party and the feeling is reciprocated from within our party too, by some at least. But in the end we understand real politics. Haven’t we teamed up with Labour a couple of times? Hasn’t yours with the Unionists?

To be honest, Gerry, and I’m only telling you what some have been saying, joining up with your party would be easier if you were not the President of it. Painful as it is to tell you, they’d be a lot happier with Mary Lou, who has not a whiff of gunpowder around her, if you know what I mean.

So, for the moment, Gerry a chara, the answer has to be at most “maybe”, thanks. But as time goes on, who knows?

I regret but am sure you will understand why this letter is printed text and why I cannot sign it.

All the best for now.

 

3)

Dear Gerry,

I trust this letter finds you well.

It seems that a General Election is close, likely this Autumn or next Spring. The likely outcome will be that no one political party gets an overall majority, in which case a coalition government is inevitable.

I want to take you back to your suggestion in the past that your party should team up with Labour and some independents to form a Government. At the time I thought the idea interesting but I knew my colleagues would not go for it. They have a history of hating your party for all kinds of reasons, mostly to do with the IRA.

But now that you’ve disbanded that bunch they hate you even more for trying to move into our patch – social democracy. I know, there’s no pleasing some people, is there? As you know yourself. And anyway, as I tell them, your party has no real feet in the trade unions, does it? So social democracy as a political project remains safely with us (except to an extent in Dublin, where FF have a foothold in that section of the people, God knows why).

Anyway now that our party faces an almost total Dáil wipeout in the next election, even those hard-liners in our party might be willing to consider an alliance for government. Twenty-three Dáil seats is a respectable number to bring to the table and you might even gain a couple more in the election.

You might be saying to yourselves that your party has nothing to gain from an alliance with ours, with our parliamentary representation so reduced and other factors (electorate resentment about things we did and didn’t do while in government, etc.). But we bring respectability to your party and we wouldn’t be pressurising you to step aside for Mary Lou.

Most crucially perhaps, we have trade union support to offer. Let’s face it, there are some hard times ahead and having union leaders on your side (or at least under control) could be a very important factor for success.

And whereas our party can rise and fail and rise and fail again, it might be that yours has only one crack at power before the electorate decide to go back to established parties. In Northern Ireland, for decades now you only really had the Unionists as opposition, and most of your support base would never vote for them. But here, in the Republic (if you don’t mind my using the term, ha, ha), you’d be up against parties that your kind of people have voted in for generations, or at least from time to time.

I know an astute manoeuverer such as yourself will understand what I am saying.

At least think about it.

I mean no disrespect but this letter in printed text has to remain unsigned — I’m sure you understand why.

All the best for now.

 

4)

A Chara,

As we expected, your floating the notion that we might be willing to go into coalition government as the minority partner (despite our previous statements that we would not) raised some condemnations from inside and outside the Party, along with some stirrings of unease among a number of our supporters.

On the debit side, it seems we are going to lose a handful of long-term members but these have been critical for some time and we’re better off without them. As to the critics outside, many of them former members, they condemn virtually anything we do and we only need worry about what they say to the extent that it might concern our members. But look how many things our members have accepted already, despite the critics! No, I think we’re safe on this one.

On the plus side, the media mostly absorbed the interview with interest and, on the whole, neutral comment. And it must have set Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael thinking (and even Labour, though you’d wonder why they think we’d want to join with a bunch of losers like them).

As to the bulk of our members, it seems some were still reeling from our expressed interest in a coalition government with the Blueshirts (must get out of the habit of calling them that, lol) and perhaps a little shell-shocked so that this latest suggested change has aroused little emotion.

As we discussed, playing it as a thought of yours only that would still have to be discussed in the Party and ultimately decided democratically at the Ard-Fheis was the right way to go about it and when it comes to the AF we should have little difficulty in getting it through. Yes, the ‘suggestion’ might expose you to criticism from what’s left of the left-wingers in the Party but, on the other hand, it makes you more acceptable to the media and less vulnerable to being asked to move aside in favour of you-know-who (and that rhymes with her name, ha, ha). We still need to keep an eye on that one; it would be dangerous to underestimate her, as poor Pearse found out when she shot down his rising star. Still, that did us a favour too didn’t it? He was aiming a bit too high for his own good (and for ours).

With regard to the main points of our election platform you listed in the interview, the Water Charge referendum and improving the Health Service are of course very popular points and we could hardly have gone ahead without them. Of course the reality is that the Health Service is beyond fixing without the kind of change brought about by a revolution and we’re not in that game at all. But we’ll do something with it if we get in – we’ll be looking for a second term in coalition, after all.

The Water Charge referendum will be a difficult one but we might well get the EEC to declare it illegal. We don’t want our hands tied in future on a useful money-raising resource. Anyway, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

As to Brexit, it seems most of the electorate here in the 26 Counties doesn’t care about it. Still, we’ll plough ahead with it and at least it’s not attracting any criticism.

We could have put forward a radical housing program, which would have been really popular but no coalition partner would go for it and worse, the property developers would hate us. And we need them as friends.

As agreed, no names so no signature either, a chara.

Our Party’s day will come.

Beir bua

THE FLIGHT OF THE UNDERGROUND QUEEN

Diarmuid Breatnach

                                                          They had been preparing for this for some time. The infants were selected, received special care and food and were raised carefully in the Palace chambers inside the Citadel. They were now adolescents, maturing sexually. As the time approached for their great expedition, the tunnels leading to the departure terminal were widened and cleared of all obstructions. Experts tested the weather conditions daily and, when the majority of these were in agreement, the Queen gave the order to launch.

The adolescents took off then, a great host of them, amidst great excitement. Their pheromones, male and female, filled the air around them and those who could, which was most of them, quickly found a partner and coupled. It was a maiden flight from which the adolescent females would land no longer maidens.  

Those who would land, that is.  For suddenly the air was filled with giant flying monsters with huge eyes and giant whirring wings.  Much more accustomed to flight, these monsters flew among them, gobbling them up.  Some even held rows of their hapless victims in their huge beaks as they flew off to feed them to their young.  Hundreds, perhaps thousands of the little flyers perished in minutes. 

Those who managed to land safely and didn’t end up drowning in a lake or a river, or snapped by denizens of the deep who sprang up at them as they passed overhead, or caught in sticky webs, or who were not stamped carelessly to death by huge walking giants or flattened by roaring, stinking monsters, still had to contend with smaller predators on the ground. The casualty rate was huge but some made it alive – some always did.

The males who made it down to ground safely would all die within a couple of days. Their wings were only intended for their nuptial flight; on the ground, they were nothing more than a nuisance, impeding their progress over and underground.

The females, sexually sated and no longer interested, had left their male partners behind. They bit off their own wings, ate them and, quickly finding some reasonably soft ground, began to dig. Each one dug down as though her life depended on it, which of course it did; and not only her own life – each one was pregnant. Then she blocked the entrance to her tunnel, went back down it, excavated a chamber and began to lay eggs. It was completely dark down there but she had been reared in darkness – she had one day of daylight only, the day she flew.

The young grubs who hatched were all females. She supplied them with some sparse nutrition from herself and cared for them as they grew, shed skin, grew … until they spun a cocoon from which they emerged as very small worker ants. They were infertile workers and tended to their large mother, their Queen; even when they were fully-grown she was still one-and-a-half times their size, although about half the size she had been when she left her old nest. Her most recent meal had been her own wings the day she had flown and mated. If she got past this crucial stage, she would recover her size and weight and lay more and more eggs.  

The workers soon went up the tunnel, unblocked it and spilled out into daylight for the first time in their lives, beginning to forage for food. They found small seeds and, if they were lucky, sweet material such as soft-skinned ripe or rotting fruit. They soon had their surroundings covered with their hive-scent, carried by each and every worker. Sometimes they found insects they could kill but these had to be very small indeed – these workers had been fed on insufficient nutrition and were, compared to the majority of their kind, puny. If they found a food-source worth another visit, they left a specially-scented trail on their way back to their home, to guide theirs sisters back to the prize later. A rich source of food typically would show two streams of traffic between their nest and the food – one emptyjawed heading for the food and the other, with pieces in their jaws, heading away from it and towards the nest.  The food gathered by the workers fed them and their Queen, while she continued laying eggs.  As time went by, more and more workers were born, who would care for the hundreds of eggs their matriarch laid and raise more and more workers.  Extensive tunnel networks were dug.

At some point the workers found aphids and began harvesting their sugary secretions; tending them on the stems of the plants the aphids infested and carrying them down to their citadel but bringing them back up later. The workers would fight to protect the aphids from those who preyed on their ‘herds’.

Successive generations of ant workers grew bigger, until they reached the optimum size of five milimetres (still four millimetres short of the Queen in her prime). A well-established citadel could in time house as many as 40,000 individuals (although between four and seven thousand would be more common) – they, and previous generations, all daughters of the same mother and the product of one mating only. Their Queen, barring unusual disasters, might live to 15 years of age.

Once the citadel is built, it is vulnerable in the ordinary course of things only to parasites, flood, fire and severe surface disturbance. In Ireland, without bears, wild boar and largely without foraging pigs, severe surface disturbance is unlikely away from human construction or ploughing and digging. Fire might not reach underground but the heat generated or the lack of oxygen might kill anyway; flood, of course, would be the biggest threat. If a citadel should be uncovered or invaded by flood waters, some workers will rush to deal with the problem while others rush to save the young, trying to carry eggs, pupae or cocoons away in their jaws to a safe place. Some others will rush to do whatever they can for their Queen. A black ant defends itself by running away if possible and if not, by biting. But intruders to the citadel are swarmed by biting ants. However most human skin is impervious to the bite and this species does not sting.

Black Ant nest under a stone, disturbed. Ant larvae and pupae visible as the workers rush to take them to safety.

Black Ant nest under a stone, disturbed. Ant larvae and pupae visible as the workers rush to take them to safety.

One day, perhaps three years from the Queen’s maiden flight, she will decide it is time to send her own children into the wider world.  She will lay eggs and have these emerging grubs fed special food, which will produce males for the first time in her citadel, as well as other fertile females besides herself.  Then, one day in July or in August, she will send them out too, to start new colonies.  

Lasius niger, the Black or Garden Ant, is the most common of the 21 species of ant in Ireland. It is the most common also across Europe and a sub-species, L. neoniger, is known in the USA where however, it is not one of the most numerous ant species. Lasius niger is a very active, hardy and adaptable species, living mostly outdoors under rocks and but rarely inside houses (although it may well enter houses repeatedly if it learns of food within, especially sweet food). In cities, its nests are to be found in parks and gardens but also under street paving stones, the workers emerging to forage from tunnels leading to the joints between the stone. When those joints are surrounded by thin lines or small heaps of bright sand in summer, one knows that the workers are clearing the tunnels for the adolescents’ flights. Another indication is an unusual amount of

Black ants, emerging from under their nest. The larger winged ones are fertile and, if they survive, future queens. The winged males are much smaller and all are doomed.

Black ants, emerging from under their nest. The larger winged ones are fertile and, if they survive, future queens. The winged males are much smaller and all are doomed.

seemingly erratic ant activity around a nest, though one would need to be aware of what normal activity looked like, for comparison. The ants may delay, awaiting what they judge to be optimum conditions but someday soon, mid to late afternoon, they will take to the air, to fly, to mate, to die or to live, to start a new population.

End

Derry’s New Secret Police Force

Republished with kind permission from the Irish Dissent blog https://irishdissent.wordpress.com/

 

In the second such attack to have occurred in Derry within the past two months, a teenage boy was beaten up last week in the city by a gang of masked men armed with iron bars and a gun (in the previous one, a teenager suffered two broken legs and a broken arm).

One of the instruments of the “secret police” — an iron bar

Nobody knows who did this, or why these two attacks took place, of course. That’s because this is how secret policing works – it occurs very discreetly, almost invisibly, insidiously reminding us that, below the surface of society and always after night falls, a secret police force is active. Violent secret policing can be so clandestine that, when it does take place, it can feel at first almost as if it hasn’t happened, unless, of course, you are one of the people on the receiving end of it. Although it feels unreal to many among the wider community, its repeated occurrence burrows into the public mind where its corruption, though often overlooked, is impossible to conceal.

This secret police force is so obscure that nobody knows who or what is behind it, other than someone’s profound desire to control people. In the absence of identifiable organisational responsibility (those involved are so secretive that nobody knows who they are) we could also describe this very Secret Police Force as Sinn Féin Mark 2. Indeed, they resemble Sinn Féin’s party militia so much that the people of Derry could be forgiven for thinking that those who are behind these attacks might have been, at some stage, apostates who were driven from that organisation. In any case, the new Secret Police have assumed all the characteristics of their old role models.

 

Old Tactics in New Clothing
Derry’s secret policing structures aren’t new or unique. They have been seen before, and resemble very closely what might be termed “the McGuinness pattern”. Organised and directed by people who want to establish themselves as unofficial figures of authority in the city, they operate according to a very familiar design. This has always served those who believe that they should be revered but ultimately feared by their own as far, at least, as limb-smashing can be interpreted as the good work of defending the community from its wayward youth. So, once again, we are being confronted with the work of false radicals and mock liberators. They know that beating people up with iron bars appeals to a very special kind of imagination, and this is where the secrecy of Derry’s Secret Police might be of benefit to everyone. Who would want to know whether a friend, neighbour or even a relative was involved in this kind of policing? This type of best-kept secret is best kept, well… very secret, indeed.

Another of the instruments of the “secret police” — a pickaxe handle

Despite what the Secret Police want you to think, they are not a manifestation of what happens “in the absence of acceptable policing” because that lazy, self-serving cliché died of exhaustion a very long time ago when it was last uttered by Sinn Féin. Anyone capable of independent thought knows that there are always alternatives to battering young people with iron bars unless, that is, they are the very rare kind of person who is addicted to doing, ordering or beholding it (a dependency for which all kinds of medical and psychiatric treatments are available). The simple fact is that broken teenage limbs are not the organic products of a supposedly measured or reasonable process that concludes with community-sanctioned violence. This brutality, along with the desire for authority and validation that it represents, is an artificial imposition that follows a logic that is as brutal for the entire community as it is for the young person who has been accused of, somehow, “offending”. The entire process is deliberately engineered to appear vague and its indeterminate quality is intended to cultivate a collective response along the lines of “Well, he must have done something”.

 

The Silent Terror
We can assume that an allegation of some kind of offence has been levelled by the Secret Police during its thoroughly concealed process of judgment – even secret tribunals, after all, have to justify their existences to themselves. The accusation circulates only within this bubble, away from public scrutiny where, undisclosed, the infraction is proven by faceless judges before a Secret Police squad is mobilised, armed, and then deployed. The “offending” young person is beaten up and in the subsequent public discussion about the mystery (“What did he get it for, anyway?”) the perceived problem evaporates, like reason under a dictatorship. Nobody says anything; everybody moves along like they’re told to and supposed to because there’s nothing to see here, nothing at all. So, the reality principle sinks while the self-perpetuating myth of the enforcer, so reliant upon the damnation and isolation of broken-limbed teenagers, endures.

With its methodically-planned politics of erasure and dedicated to the erosion of truth, this organised and highly structured violence is reinforced by the ripple-effect that it causes across the wider community.  All of this benefits those who direct it and carry it out in a number of ways. Firstly, it reinforces the perception that those in command of the Derry Secret Police have of themselves as a source of authority: “people will fear us now”, they think, “we’ll have more respect”, “all we’ll ever have to do is glare at somebody and they’ll get the message”, and so on. Secondly, the people who carry these attacks out on their behalf have, in their own turn, become blooded. Assimilated within the circuitry of this local, unofficial and unspoken power and embedded in it, they now have status, belonging, a role and a meaning greater than anything that they have ever experienced or amounted to before. In their own eyes and, they believe, in the view of the broader community, they will finally matter. Imbued with this new sense of purpose and superiority, they’ll genuinely feel important and, from this moment onward, they’ll exist under the impression that they, too, are now to be feared.

 

Political Fear and the Closure of Consciousness
No group has claimed these attacks, and none will, because silence is the currency of terror. Fear travels along the ruined and collapsed channels of reason because it depends upon the closure of imagination. Once thinking is checked, it transmits rapidly from one consciousness to the next via these now-quiet paths. In doing so, it seals mouths and closes minds, extinguishes thought and tightens its grip over the popular imagination where it is internalised, amplified and projected further inward with ever greater intensity following each attack. In this way, fear reproduces itself, by generating wider acceptance of organised thuggery and condemns entire communities to long-running cycles of quiet, uncommunicated dread. At the back of the mind of every parent will be the final, awful question: “Could this happen to my child?”

Questions now need to be asked about those who benefit from secret policing, and answers should be demanded as to which local hierarchies and dynasties are being served and facilitated by the Secret Police. The people of Derry have a right to demand what qualifies someone for a role in this clandestine force, to know who gets to make secret policing decisions and on what authority these decisions are being taken. Given that this organisation operates according to a programme of its own, people also have the right to know who writes the rules of secret policing and why. We have the right to know what gets said when secret policing matters are discussed: who, for example, discusses whom during these meetings? We have the right to know what qualifies anything or anyone for inclusion in these secret discussions, and we have the right to know what will happen if the Secret Police come up with more secret “offenses” that they believe will need to be policed with even more severity.

The deepest wounds caused by secret policing and its unofficial violence are always inflicted on the psyche of a people. The worst damage of all is caused by the silences that inhibit thought, restrict free speech and threaten to crush open criticism. If allowed to take hold, these restrictions will dominate the material, political and cultural prospects of the people of Derry, along with their psychological wellbeing.  If they are not resisted another generation will be forced to endure the authority of cabals and militias, while the prospects of young people will be permanently hindered by the shadow of this unofficial violence.

 

DARA QUIGLEY PROTEST AT DÁIL

Diarmuid Breatnach

A substantial crowd gathered at a few days’ notice at 5.30pm to protest outside the Dáil at the Garda treatment of Dara Quigley, social activist and blogger.

Section of crowd outside the Dáil (Photo: D Breatnach)

During an apparent mental ill-health episode recently, Dara was apprehended by Gardaí under the Mental Health Act while she was walking in the street naked.  One of the Gardaí shared the arrest video on the Whatsapp social media, where it was seen by a great many people before the provider removed it.  Dara took her own life five days later, on April 12th.

Dara’s family organised the event and a number of people spoke at it but due to what seemed inadequate public address system and noise of passing traffic, many could not hear what was being said.  According to a press report, Dara Quigley was remembered as “a strong and intelligent woman” at a vigil outside Leinster House on Friday evening.  Ms Quigley’s brother Seán told a congregation of about 100 people on Kildare Street that his sister had opened the world to him.

Dara Quigley, who took her life on April 12th
(Photo source: Internet)

“Without her, I don’t know where I would have been. She didn’t just do that with me, she led by example in a lot of ways. She wasn’t afraid and she wasn’t a victim.”

Painting of Dara Quigley, on display at railings of the Dáil during the protest (Phot0: D Breatnach)

The Justice Department has stated that the officer is suspended on full pay pending disciplinary investigation.  Outside the Dáil today many in the crowd were saying that the Garda responsible could post such a video without an expectation of punishment only in a force that has become accustomed to acting with impunity, from the highest to the lowest rank — with the exception of whistleblowers, of course.

Protest crowd viewed from across the road from the Dáil (Photo: D Breatnach)

LINKS

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/dara-quigley-she-wasn-t-afraid-and-she-wasn-t-a-victim-1.3081474

(Photo: D Breatnach)

RENOWNED COMPOSER CHOOSES DUBLIN FOR WORLD PREMIER OF HIS MOST FAMOUS WORK

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

On 13th April 1742, Dublin City heard the world première of the Messiah oratorio (a bit like an opera but not quite), composed by George Frideric Handel. The choice of Dublin shows the importance the city had in the European Anglo world, probably second only to London at that time, the city in which German-born-and-raised Handel had based himself.

A drawing representing the Great Musick Hall in Fishamble St (image source Wikipedia)

It may be also that Handel wished to remove himself from Anglican Church criticism and interference in of work built on religious material, problems he had encountered in London.

Incidentally, there is a tradition that Handel also played the organ in St. Michan’s (Protestant) church in Church Street (but not the organ that survives there today).

The oratorio was written in English, something of rupture in Handel’s work which had been firmly based in Italian-language opera. However, the fashion in London was changing and Handel gave in to it, writing first Esther in English, then the Messiah. The somewhat radical Englishman Charles Jennens wrote the libretto (like a script or text passages) for Handel to work in the musical score.

 

A COLONIAL CITY

Dublin in 1742 would have been primarily English-speaking, with pockets of Irish-speakers from the surrounding countryside and further afield, with linguistic artifacts of Irish and Norse audible in the English spoken by the lower social orders in the city, some of which survive to this day.

Ireland was then recovering from “the Irish Famine of 1740–1741 (Irish: Bliain an Áir, meaning the Year of Slaughter) in the Kingdom of Ireland, (which) was estimated to have killed at least 38% of the 1740 population of 2.4 million people, a proportionately greater loss than during the worst years of the Great Famine of 1845–1852.

The famine of 1740–41 was due to extremely cold and then rainy weather in successive years, resulting in food losses in three categories: a series of poor grain harvests, a shortage of milk, and frost damage to potatoes. At this time, grains, particularly oats, were more important than potatoes as staples in the diet of most workers.

Deaths from mass starvation in 1740–41 were compounded by an outbreak of fatal diseases. The cold and its effects extended across Europe, but mortality was higher in Ireland because both grain and potatoes failed. This is now considered by scholars to be the last serious cold period at the end of the Little Ice Age of about 1400–1800.” (Wikipedia).

Of course, it would not be the primary sufferers of famine, the poor (and largely the natives) who would attending the event and this was made clear by the advice to prospective audience members to leave their “swords and hoopskirts” at home so as not to overcrowd the premiere.

The main elements of the Penal Laws were still in place in 1742 and the Irish Parliament in College Green admitted only Anglicans, thereby barring representation not only from the huge majority of the Catholic faith but also from the next largest group, the Presbyterians and all the other ‘Dissenter’ groups.

However, the audience for the premiere may well have had wide representation from the higher social classes in Dublin across religious lines. Handel was, after all, a superstar!

George Friderik Handel without his wig
(Image source: Internet)

A tradition arose over the years for audience members to arise as the Halleluyah chorus begins. This is based on a belief that King George was so impassioned by hearing it that he stood up, obliging the audience to do so too so as not to remain seated when the King was standing. Of course, knowing the reason for that tradition would be enough to to keep any democratic republican firmly seated. But apparently the story is without foundation and it is not even certain that the murderous Royal was even present at a London performance.

The Messiah was performed in the Great Music Hall in Fishamble Street (see video by Wayne Fitzgerald — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHWDJjS_JkU — the white arch is all that remains of it today). That street was a busy medieval one, close to what was the seat of foreign domination since the Norse built their fortifaction by Dubh Linn some time around 841. The Normans, after driving them out in 1171 and banishing them to Oxmanstown, constructed their own castle there in increments as they gradually became the “English” and remained in formal control until 1921.

I watched (if that’s the right word) a performance of the Messiah some years ago in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, not far from Fishamble Street. I had bought tickets only as a favour to a friend visiting Dublin and I was really impressed with it. The performers often stood on the pews to deliver their lines and I remember, despite my atheism, being uncomfortable with this – cultural conditioning runs deep!

No wonder the oratorio was a raging success in Dublin in the 1740s and since. At the Dublin performance, “the alto soloist, Susanna Cibber, was an actress who had attracted scandal in the past, but legend has it that her emotional performance of ‘He was despised’ moved Dr Patrick Delany – the husband of one of Handel’s most ardent champions – to exclaim ‘Woman, for this, be all your sins forgiven’” (!)  It took the London higher classes a little longer to take to the oratorios but they did so in time.  One is reminded of Shaw’s comment that went something like this: “No-one could accuse the English of failing to note a work of genius — providing someone was kind enough to point it out to them.”

 

End.

 

SOURCES
https://www.bsomusic.org/stories/5-things-you-might-not-know-about-handels-messiah.aspx

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Famine_(1740–41)

https://www.gramophone.co.uk/feature/the-story-behind-the-triumphant-premiere-of-handels-messiah

 

 

PLAIN-CLOTHES POLICE OFFICER SHOT DOWN IN DUBLIN STREET

 

Diarmuid Breatnach

He’s up there if you want him …. on the footpath.”

On 14th April 1920, a man in plainclothes was shot by another, also in plain clothes, in Camden Street, Portobello, on the south side of the city and not far from the centre. A passing motorist rushed the gunshot victim to the nearby Meath Hospital but he died there.

The victim was Det. Constable Harry Kells of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, a man of 41 years of age who lived in No. 7 Pleasant Street, i.e very close to where he was shot. He was married without children.

Funeral party of DMP colleagues of Det. Constable Kells, with the coffin holding his remains.
(Source: irishconstabulary.com)

Many reports say that Kells was a member of the DMP “G” Division, which were known as “the political police” (apparently both within the DMP and outside). However, “McRIC” in the irishconstabulary forum states that this is inaccurate and that the man, although recently promoted to plain clothes work, was rather in “B” Division and investigating a number of burglaries in the city.

From a number of investigations carried out it seems that this question may never be resolved but it is highly likely that Kells was at least in the process of being transferred to “G” Division. However, the reason for his killing is almost certainly much more specific. It seems that Kells had been reviewing identity parades in Mountjoy Jail in attempts to find the killers of British intelligence agent Alan Bell, who had been assassinated on the 27th March. While engaged in this work, he had been identified by Peadar Clancy1, Vice-Commandant of the Dublin Brigade of the IRA, who sent a note about him to Michael Collins, who put the execution order on Kells.

It is worth noting that Republican prisoners in Mountjopy had also been taking part in a hunger-strike at that time in protest at removal of political status while detained without trial. Ironically, 90 prisoners were released on the very day Kells was killed.

Peadar Clancy, who got the word out to Collins about Kells working Identification parades in Mountjoy Jail, Dublin. (Image source: Wikpedia)

 

THE LARGEST RAID EVER CARRIED OUT BY BRITISH TROOPS IN DUBLIN

“Aul Decency”, posting on Dublin Forum.ie on 31st March 2012, drawing on April reports in the Irish Times and New York Times, says that the incident “was the cause of the largest raid ever carried out by British Troops in Dublin.”

According to “Aul Decency”: “Two of those sought in connection with Kells’ killing were Sinn Féin members Michael and William Kavanagh who lived at 5 Pleasant St., who had previously been “fingered” by Kells, and it was thought they would seek refuge among friends in the neighbourhood. The troops swarmed over Camden St from Cuffe street and into Portobello and the homes of the local Jews2. Over 100 people were arrested that day but Kells’ killer was not among them.”

Portobello area map today,  Camden Street is a longish one right between the D8 and D2 legends.   Pleasant St. is off Camden St. to the left, near the top of the image. (Source: Internet)

 

This “fingering” had in fact been carried out after the 1916 Rising when Kells reported that the brothers had been seeing changing into Volunteer uniforms in the house, information which had resulted in at least one of the brothers ending up in Frongoch concentration camp that year and losing his job.

It is enough perhaps to know that Kells was killed by Republicans and the probable reason but we can go a bit further, drawing on The Squad by T. Ryle Dwyer (quoted in irishconstabulary.com) where Paddy Daly of the Squad is quoted about the operation to kill the police officer:

On our way we picked up Hugo MacNeill, a nephew of Eoin MacNeill3 the initial President of the Irish Volunteers. He was not a member of the Squad but he asked to come along.

We divided up into patrols of two4, MacNeill was with Joe Leonard. ODaly said he heard a couple of shots, and saw MacNeill sauntering down Pleasant St. as if nothing had happened.

What was the shooting about? O’Daly asked.

Kells is up there if you want him, MacNeill replied.

Where?O’Daly asked.

On the footpath‘, replied MacNeill.

Det. Constable was the third police officer to be killed in Dublin so far in 1920 in a war between the British occupation forces and the IRA, in which not only police officers but intelligence agents and British soldiers on one side were killed and, on the other, Volunteers, active Republicans, sympathisers and uninvolved civilians. Of course the war was going on in many other parts of Ireland but it is often forgotten that among those areas subject to martial-type law were Dublin County and City, where had been the HQ of the British occupation since 1171: Dublin Castle.

 

SOURCES:

 

http://www.dublinforum.net/forum/showthread.php?t=2110&page=3

http://irishconstabulary.com/topic/1477#.WO6mGEvb-_s

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Irish_War_of_Independence

http://www.irishmedals.org/r-i-c-d-m-p-k-i-a-.html

1Peadar Clancy was one of two Volunteers and one civilian who were tortured by RIC Auxiliaries in Dublin Castle and killed on November 21, 1920 (Bloody Sunday).

2Portobello had a Jewish quarter at that time. Some of the residents are reputed to have been active in the resistance movement and a number had been on strike or locked out in 1913.

3He who had on Easter Saturday 1916 issued the cancellation order for the Rising.

4According to testimonies by Squad members, working in two groups of two was standard procedure. Typically each pair would take one side of the road. Once the assassination was carried out, the two who had not done the killing would cover the escape of the two who had.

AN EASTER STORY

 

Diarmuid Breatnach

There are many different kinds of Easter stories – religious ones, or about Easter parades and processions, ones about family reunions, Easter egg hunts, even holidays …. this isn’t one of those.

The man, let’s call him Jeremiah or Jerry for short, stood outside the pub on a Sunday afternoon and struggled to quell the apprehension threatening to flood his mind and body. It had to be done. He turned to his companion, who seemed to view everything through laughing eyes and was no different now. Brian had three teenage kids with him, two of his own and a friend of one of them. Hardly ideal, but Brian had turned up with them a little while ago and there was no-one to leave them with. Well, they’d be all right – Jerry would be the target and, after him, Brian. They wouldn’t touch the kids.

Best give me the bag, Brian,” he said and, receiving it, checked inside. The stuff was there. Of course. Jerry folded the bag and stuck it under his jumper, under his coat.

He was focused on the tasks ahead but the trail that led them here had started days earlier. And, in some ways, years before that.

He squared his shoulders, turned and entered the pub. Brian and the kids followed.

**** **** ****

He had been at work on Friday afternoon when the call came from the Manager of the Irish Community Centre. Of course, he asked the staff to put it through to his office.

Do you know your event is in the newspapers?”

Something in the Manager’s voice alerts him that he is not being congratulated on the publicity.

The Easter Rising commemoration?”

Yes. It’s in the Evening Standard.”

Well, that answered the second question he had in mind.

No, I didn’t know. What are they saying?”

He knows what the British media are like and he’s got a sinking feeling.

It transpires that an Irish Republican organisation had put the event on their website, which had been noted by an Englishman who lost his son in the Omagh bombing of 1998. There are many questions to be answered about that bombing, both within the Republican and the State side, but for many years, not unnaturally, the father had been focused on the Republican group allegedly connected to the Real IRA, who had placed the bomb. In addition to his son, the bomb had killed 28 other people, the second-highest death toll for any day during the war in Ireland, the highest being the Dublin-Monaghan bombing of 1974, with a toll of 34. Jerry was aware that the 1974 bombings did not attract anything like the same media attention and understood the reason – they had been carried out by Loyalists under British Intelligence Service direction.

But what had all this to do with the Irish in Britain Representation Group in South London, and their Easter Rising Commemoration? Or with the Irish Community Centre? Well, the grieving father had noted the posting by the Irish organisation, noted the venue and rang, demanding that the event be cancelled.

I told him the commemoration is an annual event organised by an Irish community organisation and that there’s never been any trouble at it. I told him it has nothing to do with that Republican organisation …. it doesn’t, does it?”

No, it’s just us, the local Irish in Britain Representation Group branch. But surely any organisation is entitled to advertise the event?”

Jerry is noting doubt in the Centre Manager’s voice responding to him. He is on the receiving end of huge pressure, working in his office, alone.

He wanted me to cancel the booking and I said I couldn’t do that.”

The grieving father had got on to the local authority, who replied that the event was the business of the Irish Centre. The father then contacted the media, who rang the local authority again and this time, instead of sticking to their original line and weathering what would be a short-lived storm, and without phoning the Centre Manger, their spokesperson condemned the event and stated they would be asking hard questions of the Centre, which they part-funded.

Jerry reads all this again when he slips out to get a newspaper. He feels for the beleaguered Centre Manager but can do nothing. It’s too late to contact the newspapers because the story is published. The event is to be held that evening. It has been advertised in the local area and in the Irish Post, the main newspaper at the time for the Irish diaspora in Britain. And in any case, one cannot – should not – give in to intimidation, coercion. The community had mostly caved under the Prevention of Terrorism Act in 1974 and had not really rallied again until the Hunger Strikes of 1981. The event must go on.

Jerry heads home, thinking about additional security needed on the door for the event, composing replies to the local authority, a letter in the newspaper ….

The IBRG Ard-Choiste, its governing body, had withdrawn its support of the Time To Go coalition in Britain some years earlier because of undemocratic maneuvering by some left Labour politicians, along with the sidelining of specific Irish community concerns. They had not been alone: Stop the Strip Searches Campaign and the Troops Out Movement had pulled out also, leaving the tiny Labour Committee on Ireland, the Socialist Workers Party and Communist Party of Great Britain to be supported by only the Wolfe Tone Association (SF support group in London) and the Connolly Association (linked to the CPGB) among the Irish campaigners .

Later, in 1998, the IBRG had been divided on the Good Friday Agreement. It was not the issue of continuing or ceasing the armed actions of the IRA that had been the source of the division, rather the acceptance of colonial rule, albeit claimed to be for tactical reasons only. A majority within the IBRG came out against the Agreement and that was in accordance with Jerry’s position too.

Although he supports none of the Republican groups opposing Sinn Féin, he has heard whispers in the Irish community at various times associating him with this or that group. This might well be feeding doubts in the Centre Manager’s mind.

Jerry is in a more difficult position than might seem. He is not only Secretary of the local IBRG branch that has organised the event and is affiliated to the Community Centre, but also the Chairperson of the Irish Centre’s Management Committee itself. The Management Committee is the Centre Manager’s employer and has a duty of care to him. And after nearly a decade of campaigning for the provision of the Centre and the meagre funding it receives, no-one on the Committee would want to antagonise the local authority.

But it was the IBRG branch itself and in particular the Irish Pensioners’ Association which was then a part of it, which had won the provision for the community in the end. And Jerry had been part of the campaign, elected as Chairperson of the Steering Group in the years while renovations of the building and available funding were discussed, elected Chairperson for the first six months after the Centre opened and at the Annual General Meeting for every year afterwards. In fact, recently Jerry had been trying unsuccessfully to step down, to ease a replacement into his position.

On the train from London Bridge on the last leg of his journey home, Jerry reflects ruefully that this controversy might cause his stepping down, which was hardly the way he had anticipated his leaving. No stepping back slowly, supporting someone new in position and easing himself out. No – thrown out instead! That would of course imply he had done something wrong, which he hadn’t and that the IBRG had been wrong to commemorate the Rising, which they hadn’t either. Ironically, if moves were made now to replace him, he’d have to fight them.

**** **** ****

Before he arrives at the Irish Community Centre, Jerry looks carefully around the mostly residential street. Nothing seems threatening but can one be sure? He is carrying the IBRG’s branch’s banner, wrapped up in black bin liners, which makes him a visible target if someone’s searching. On the other hand, one of the poles of the banner is loose within the bundle, in case of need ….

He drops the Centre’s keys in his nervousness and enters, disabling the alarm and turning quickly to retrieve the keys and lock the door. Then, into the hall, to begin arranging some of the material ….

He is anxious for some of the IBRG members to arrive but jumps when the doorbell rings. Checking through the fish-eye spyhole, he is surprised to see one of the Irish Pensioners, who lives locally.

Opening the door and ushering her in, he locks the door behind her, saying apologetically “There’s only myself here so far.”

Are others coming?” she asks – she has read the newspaper and unerringly touches Jerry’s main fear at the moment.

I’m sure they are, Ellie. What are you doing here so early?’

I thought you might need some help.”

Jerry is touched straight through to his heart but has to refuse. He can’t have her here if there’s an attack with no-one else but himself to defend her.

Oh no, Ellie that’s very kind of you. But I kind of know what I have to do and explaining it to others will just take longer and make me flustered. You know how it is. Thanks a lot. Besides the others will be here soon. Come back when we’re open …..” he trails off guiltilly.

Still, she goes and he heaves a sigh of relief, at the same time feeling shame.

But there’s work to be done.

A scattering of volunteers arrives over the next half hour. The reception table is set up in the lobby, to sell tickets and distribute leaflets. Hidden behind, are the lengths of wood in case of attack by one of the British fascist groups. Up goes the green-white-&-orange bunting, portraits of the executed 1916 leaders, enlarged copies of the 1916 Proclamation. At the back of the stage, facing the hall, the large artwork Jerry made a few years ago of green, white and orange flames bursting from the date 1916. And the IBRG branch banner.

The stage is ready for the band, a group called The Mc ____ Brothers, who play Irish ballads, including Republican material. Water jug and glasses for the speakers. Tables and chairs rearranged on the hall floor (the part-time Caretaker had laid them out but Jerry always prefers a more “club” arrangement, of smaller tables spaced apart surrounded by some chairs).

By the time the opening hour arrives, Jerry is sweating but it is the sweat of work, not of fear or apprehension. The hall looks good. People are starting to arrive. Maybe he can relax now. Maybe. Brian is on the door with others close by.

The event is a bring-your-own-alcohol one and Jerry and others in the lobby spend some time directing people to the nearest off-licence, so that people are coming in, going out, coming in, sitting in the hall …. Jerry is scanning their faces, looking for possible sources of trouble.

An hour later and the band has not arrived. Pol phones them but gets no reply. Phones their manager but no reply either. Another hour later, the reality dawns on the organisers. The band will not be coming. They have seen the newspaper and decided to look after their safety. But they haven’t even bothered to tell them.

The organisers confer, after which Jerry mounts the stage, calls for attention and begins to speak.

A Chairde Gael agus a chairde ó thíortha eile, go raibh míle maith agaibh for coming here tonight to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising with us. This is a hugely important event in Irish history and indeed in the history of the world and the local branch of the IBRG has been not just commemorating but publicly celebrating this historic event every year for some time now.

But we are very sorry to say that we have some bad news for you now. Some of you will know that very recently pressure was put on us to cancel this event but that we refused to do so. Pressure was put on the Irish Centre to cancel the event which they also and rightly refused to do.

That the British media would attack us is no surprise, they have been doing that for years. But that the local authority’s spokesperson should bow down to them and, without consulting with us, imply that we are doing something wrong here, that the Centre should not have taken our booking, is something else.

And worst of all, that an Irish band, which makes a living playing Irish ballads, should allow themselves to be scared off and not even have the decency to ring us – well, I don’t really have the words to tell you what I think about that.

So, a chairde, we offer you your money back and no questions and our sincere apologies. However, those of you who wish to remain are welcome to do so and we’ll make our own entertainment with a few songs …. we have a guitar player here …. another man plays a whistle …. But please, you are entitled to your money back and those who wish to please go to the table in the lobby now.”

As though he had been primed to do so (but Jerry knew he had not), a middle-aged Irishman at a table nearer the stage jumps up and shouts: “NO! We will not ask for our money back! We’re not going to be chased out by no British newspapers!”

A round of applause from the audience and a few cheers greet his outburst. And just like that, the evening is saved.

The guitarist plays some numbers and sings. Jerry gives an abbreviated oration and sings a few ballads. The whistle player plays some tunes. People sing along to songs. They drink, chat and buy raffle tickets. One of the raffle prizes is auctioned by the winner, a local publican Jerry had been surprised to see in the audience. The money goes into the takings. At the end of the evening, as they finally cajole the last of the audience out of the Centre (still with a wary eye on the street) and finish cleaning and tidying up, they count the takings. Financially, it has been their most successful evening ever, especially since they didn’t have to pay a band.

But the band ….. their action and lack of notification have left a sour taste in the mouths of the organisers. And during the evening, they learned that the Mc___ Brothers are booked to play at an Irish pub, on Sunday afternoon, just two days away. And only a five minutes’ drive from the Irish Centre.

**** **** ****

A council of war decides that the bar will be visited, Jerry will mount the stage (“you’re our best speaker”) and present the band with white feathers, symbolising cowardice. Some can’t be there. One or two think it will be dangerous. Brian, Pol and Jerry think it’s a good plan — so then they just need some white feathers. How hard can that be?

Visits to duck pond parks yield none. The quaysides along the Thames show no seagull feathers. Brian drives to the coast and walks some beaches – and finds a couple of wispy ones. In desperation on Sunday morning, they burst open a pillow and drag out a handful of feathers. They are small, not at all like the large ones they had envisaged presenting to the band but they are white and they are feathers. Into the plastic bag they go and then Brian is driving Jerry and the kids to the pub. Brian has remarkable personal resources and has been through some very serious situations so this might be small potatoes to him …. but Jerry’s guts are churning.

Some faces in the pub turn to look at them as they enter. Jerry has been here before only once but a number of the clientele are known to him from other pubs and events. And he is probably known to more of them, as Chairperson of the Irish Centre. A few catch his eye and he nods at them, keeping his face impassive.

Do they know that the band playing here let down the audience two days ago? Of course they do …. or at least many would. This is the Irish community in SE London. Besides, the Manager of this bar, Kate, until recently worked for the publican who auctioned the raffle prize at the event on Friday night. Are they wondering what Jerry intends to do?

The band, which Brian has taken to calling the “McChicken Brothers”, is already playing on stage. Jerry had meant to get here before they got on but the feather search had been a delay. To get in front of them now might be resented by the audience and anyway, the band’s control of the microphones could drown out what needs to be said. Jerry goes to the bar, orders pints for himself and Brian and soft drinks for the kids, stitches a smile on his face and chats to Brian. And they wait.

Eventually the band takes a break and Jerry waits tensely for the indication that they are returning for the second half of their gig. When he sees them coming he nods to Brian, whose job is to fend off anyone attacking him before he has finished.

Just as the band reach the low stage but have yet to mount it, Jerry jumps up on it and begins to speak in a loud voice.

Ladies and gentlemen, your attention for a moment please!” EVERYBODY turns to look.

These musicians here were booked to play at an Easter Rising commemoration at the Irish Community Centre on Friday. They didn’t turn up. They left the audience (ok, bump up the figures a little!, he thinks) — 200 people – and the organisers stranded. And they didn’t even have the decency to tell us they weren’t coming. They ran scared, my friends, from lies in the British press.”

Jerry has the plastic bag in his hand and now dips into it, withdrawing a handfull of fluffy little white feathers.

Shame on you!” he says, facing the band members. “And this is what we think of you!”

So saying, he tries to throw the bunch of feathers at them but they erupt in a cloud between them, some clinging to Jerry’s hands. No matter, it is done. He steps off the stage and heads for the door, hoping to make it before anyone tries to stop him, before Brian has to get into physical stuff.

Surprisingly, someone shouted “Hear, hear!” and there had been a scattered round of applause.

Outside, they head for Brian’s car. A man comes running out and Brian steps forward to confront him, Jerry getting ready too, the kids behind him. Kate, the Manager, comes running out too and grabs the man. She says some things to him and he goes back in reluctantly, Jerry thinking the man doesn’t know how lucky he is that he didn’t tangle with Brian. Then Kate comes up to Jerry, shaking with anger, her face white.

You had NO right, NO right to do that in my pub!” she says.

We couldn’t let them get away with that, Kate,” Jerry replies.

Anywhere else. Not in my pub,” she says again.

The adrenaline is now seeping away and Jerry knows that his leg will start to shake soon. He feels a little sorry for Kate but needs to get away.

Sorry, Kate, that’s where they were,” Jerry replies and turns to go.

Don’t ever come in my pub again,” she calls out at his back.

**** **** ****

Many things were probably said in the local Irish community about the IBRG branch before and after that incident but probably that action contributed to an estimation that whatever you might think of them, they stood up for themselves and didn’t back down. That and their annual Children’s Irish Hallowe’en Party, their weekly Children’s Irish Art and History Group, their participation in the South London St. Patrick’s Day Parade and their occasional dramatic productions earned the small group a kind of respect in the local Irish community, a community often quite conservative in social outlook, often insular, often riven by jealousies and back-biting.

One night two weeks after the 1916 commemoration, there was a crude arson attempt on the Centre – a bottle with accelerant leaned against the front door and set alight. It burned a hole in the door and set off the fire alarms. Jerry, as a keyholder, got a call to attend from Ellie. The police were already there and Jerry dealt with them politely. Any enemies? they asked. Jerry wondered whether he should give them a list.

My guess is some British far-right group”, he replied, very glad that back in the Steering Group days, he had insisted on all the windows being covered with wire mesh panels, thinking of possible rock or even petrol bomb attack.

The police suggested they look through a list of recent attendance at the Centre. Jerry politely refused. Security provisions were made at the Centre.  Nothing came of whatever investigations the police carried out and Jerry was not surprised.

Media attention went away and the local authority didn’t take the matter further. Jerry wrote a letter to the Irish Post, denouncing the pressure applied against the IBRG and the Irish Centre and which might even have encouraged the arson attack. He did so under an assumed name because, as Chairperson, he wished not to implicate the Centre in his denunciation of the craven action of the local authority spokesperson. The beleaguered Centre Manager did not see it that way, assuming that Jerry was trying to have his say while avoiding responsibility.

When, a number of years later, in a heavy round of cuts in expenditure, the Centre’s main funding, the Manager’s and caretakers’ salaries were targeted in the local authority’s budget, Jerry led the Management Committee in a campaign of resistance. They picketed Council meetings and drew up lists of elected Councillors to lobby. Irish musicians and children in Irish dancing school costumes were brought to perform in front of the Council offices, leading to photographs in the local press. The Pensioners’ Association, amicably separated some years earlier from the IBRG branch, played a prominent part once more. Some local English people came forward to support the Centre’s case. Jerry prepared a submission for the IBRG branch and spoke to it at a Council meeting. Eventually, their meagre funding, the removal of which would have meant the closing of the Centre except for sporadic events, was saved.

Jerry didn’t go back to that bar where he had confronted the “McChicken Brothers” for about a year after that incident. When he did, he wondered whether he’d be served. He was — but it was another two years before Kate spoke to him again.

End.