“It is highly unlikely that that happened”, said Assistant Chief Constable Gray of the PSNI, responding to an allegation that information on the names of contractors was leaked by the colonial police force. Firms contracted to remove the pallets from a stack prepared for Loyalist 11th July bonfire withdrew after their names were displayed on the bonfire stack.
“In the first place, no police officer would ever leak information to anyone outside the Force,” she said. “That would be just so unprofessional. In the second place, it is well established that has never, ever been any collusion between the police force here and Loyalist paramilitaries.”
Asked why police did not move against the bonfire builders when the council asked the PSNI to investigate allegations of aggravated trespass, Ms Gray said police had “no powers to remove anybody.” She frowned as some reporters from nationalist areas burst into laughter and became incoherent. Eventually someone asked did that apply to members of Republican groups also.
“Not if they’re dissidents,” she snapped, indicating the questioner to nearby PSNI officers with a nod of her head.
Assistant Chief Constable Gray added that any police action also had to be “proportionate”. At this, uncontrolled laughter broke out again from a section of the reporters present. ASC Gray said what sounded like “Loughisland” and indicated the offending group to some police officers present, who began to film them, at which point the reporters became very quiet.
Responding to suggestions that the burning of posters of people and flags of a country might be seen as offensive, racist and threatening, Ms Gray said the offensive material on the bonfire in Lisburn was related to election campaigns and was therefore alright.
A man who identified himself as an Avoniel community worker said that the bonfire was just “Protestants celebrating our culture” and they only had a couple of weeks a year to do it now. “Things were much simpler in the old days,” he said, “when we just did what we liked. And we had a wider choice of activities, such as chasing Taigues out of the shipyards, burning Fenian houses …. But now houses have been built near bonfires so that complaints can be made by people pretending to be scared of a wee bit of fire. After all, there was bonfires afore there was houses,” he stated. “And there was roads for us to march through Catholic areas afore there was Catholic houses …. er … anyways, it’s our culture! Our British culture!”
“But they don’t do that in Britain, do they?” someone called out, refusing to be intimidated by the man’s tattoos and his UVF and Paratrooper badges, or by Ms. Gray’s glare.
“Well, maybe not,” said the community worker. “But we’ll be British even if they won’t.”
“It was the United Irishmen who lit celebratory bonfires”, another Belfast man interjected. “Like to celebrate the defeat of the English in the War of American Independence. They lit them on the hills, not beside people’s houses. And they were mostly Presbyterians!”
At this last declaration, the community worker, who had begun to froth at the mouth, screamed “Sacrilege!” and made for his tormentor. The latter seemed ready to stand up to him until he caught sight of a squad of PSNI heading for him too, at which point he upended a few chairs and made his retreat through a side entrance.
Assistant Chief Constable Gray called the press conference to an end at that point.
Around 60 people viewed the film “My Land” on Sunday morning (23/ 06/ 2019) in the Irish Film Institute in Dublin, scheduled at the decidedly un-prime time of 11.30 am on a Sunday morning. “In this revealing documentary, Anthony Monaghan, an Irish filmmaker now living in the United States, takes a hard look at economic migration, mass evictions, and the growing homeless crisis that plague Ireland today. In search of answers, he travels the nation and interviews Irish people from all walks of life” (the description on the FB page for the event).
The film opens focused on heavily-built man in shorts with a broad somewhat weathered face, wearing a straw stetson-type hat, brim turned up both sides and overall looking quite like a middle-aged man of the American Indigenous people. The rhythms of his speech and accent soon however reveal a mixture of western Irish and USA. The man parks his construction company pickup truck, gets out and we watch him walk on to a bridge, to look down upon a river, possibly the Missouri, where he stands looking for awhile before turning to the camera and beginning to speak.
DEVASTATION OF RURAL AREAS
Anthony Monaghan is from Erris, County Mayo and went to work in England when he was 15 years of age as many others around his age did too, especially in that area with an absence of industries and therefore of employment. Later, he emigrated to the USA. Later still, he returned and took out a mortgage on a house but, as we learn later, the bank took it from him and he has now returned to Missouri USA, where he decided to make the documentary.
We hear the sound-track of Lovely Blacksod Bay, a song about the ‘return’ of the son of an emigrant to Mayo.
Interspersed with beautiful scenery shots, interviewees talk about the problems of the Belmullet area, principally of lack of employment and consequent emigration. Included among those interviewed are Rose Conway-Walsh, Sinn Féin Senator from Bellmullet, Mayo, whose grown-up children had to move away. Another a former male emigrant who returned to the area in the early 1980s now sees his children moved away to work in England, his grandchildren there, returning twice a year, which brings excitement as they arrive and sadness as they leave. Another ‘returned’ migrant, a writer, came to the area from the Irish diaspora in London, brought as a child by his parents. He too had to emigrate for a while – now, back again, he expects his daughters to leave also.
As we accompany Monaghan to the local graveyard overlooking the sea, he points to the name of a brother on a headstone, a sibling who did not return alive from emigration.
The film shifts to a young woman, possibly Irish-UStater, accompanying herself on auto-harp while singing Noreen Bawn (Nóirín Bán), a sentimental song about tragedy in emigration.
John McGuinness, TD for Kilkenny-Carlow area, is also interviewed as is a FG member of the legal profession. Peter McVerry, of an NGO working with the homeless, also speaks, as does a local businessman.
The talk is of the devastation suffered by rural communities by unemployment and emigration, then the cutbacks on services to the areas, the closing of post offices, the isolation and vulnerability of the elderly, the long journeys to medical services ….
At a harbour, Monaghan talks to a man who fishes from a boat for a living, who says that kind of livelihood is gone, with big boats competing with the smaller ones. He sees no future for the younger generation making a living from the sea as he has done.
DUBLIN AND HOMELESSNESS
The film shots switch to Dublin streets and homeless people sleeping rough or begging. Among the interviewed now are the same people as before but more are added, including actor-author and former homeless person Glen Gannon and radio broadcaster Marion Shanley who, with three children, had faced eviction from her home. Tony Walsh, former homeless man and organiser of a food-serving service to homeless and other persons in need was also interviewed, as was bankrupt property developer Tom Hardy, author of “Waiting for the Sheriff”. Along with those was a young Dubliner, currently homeless.
A number of people, including the young Dublin homeless man, point out the profits that are being made by landlords. Tom Hardy reels off statistics in the profits being made there and also by the vulture funds in “buying” mortgage debts from banks at knockdown prices which the banks would not offer their debtors. A woman talks about the horror of having to raise one’s children in the hotel rooms in which homeless services place them, where they are cramped and cannot cook food. She talks about what this is doing to the children and wonders psychological problems are in store for them in future. “Why don’t the Government declare a housing emergency?” she almost wails. Clearly it is a housing emergency but as Gannon points out, they won’t declare it. It is not in their interests to do so. And according to the woman quoted earlier, a tsunami of evictions is on the way.
McVerry commented that there is a section of the population in Ireland who are doing quite well and who have no stake in any radical change in society. A number of the interviewees made reference to the wealth of the country, including several who said it was the fifth wealthiest state in the EU. I failed to find confirmation of that particular statistic and istead found a wide variety of rankings. Of course, the wealth of a state is not necessarily reflected in its people or, to be more exact, among the majority. While the problems of lack of affordable decent housing and employment, along with emigration cause suffering among a large section of people, revealed in rising rates of suicide, the number of wealthy are rising fast, with 83,000 people in Ireland whose income exceeds more than one million dollars per year (see References at end of review). It’s hard to believe that the misery of the struggling does not have some relationship to the soaring wealth of a tiny minority.
All the interviewees, to one degree or another, placed the blame for the situation on the Government. Most of them also blamed the banks and the vulture funds. Some pointed to vested interests of TDs who are rental landlords while other went as far as to allege corruption and in effect an integrated system of banks-landlords-vulture funds-district courts-TDs- Government.
Some of the interviewees alleged that the Irish are too accepting, too meek. One who did so was a Ginley (or McGinley), who said that the Irish had fought for the British and for the USA but had never fought for themselves. He seemed either ignorant or dismissive of the long Irish history of resistance and also of the fact that not only the Irish who fought in the British and US armies were not “fighting for themselves” but neither were the British and US working people alongside them!
Marion Shanley was one who upheld the Irish history of resistance and pointed out that in war, to which she hoped it would not come, incidents of suicide tended to almost disappear.
Given the size of the problems and the combination of political and financial interests, it was going to be interesting to see what solutions were advocated.
Anthony Monaghan wished to see some kind of combination of workers and business people to sort out the problems and hoped “the fighting Irish” would come to the fore.
TD McGuinness stated it was important for the politicians to come closer to the people and asked for greater leniency from the district courts in house repossession cases. Senator Conway-Walsh also wanted to see greater leniency from the courts but tighter legislation against vulture funds too. The homeless young Dubliner put forward the radical solution of having members of the Government spend a week in the conditions of homeless people.
Only Glen Gannon baldly put forward the clear solution, the only one possible, given the interlinking of financial and political interests: Revolution.
There is a vacuum of leadership, as a couple of interviewees remarked.
During his interview, the man I remembered as Ginley (or McGinley), referred to Ben Gilroy as a champion “of our own”, an electoral candidate who had been failed by the electorate and whose “vote was derisory” in the recent elections. However Gilroy (who was present at the screening, as were a number of interviewees), had in the past posted an islamophobic rant on social media and had shared leadership of the recently-defunct Irish Yellow Vests with a racist, anti-emigration, anti-gay and lesbian islamophobe.
This points to a possible danger, not only that we might continue to be driven downwards but that in desperation, we might turn to fascism and racism, as other people have done in difficult times. And in precisely those kinds of times, the ruling capitalist class has not usually been shy of finding their champions to push those kinds of ‘solutions’, splitting the working class and diverting attention from the real problems.
And one form of fascism has been indeed to seek the unity of workers and businessmen sought by Monaghan (though that should not of course be taken as a suggestion that he is himself a fascist). In such “unities” there is no question of which sector will be in command.
In a film about the Ireland of today, it was interesting to see no images or hear any reference to immigration other than that of the Irish diaspora. It could have been that the makers wanted to keep the narrative simple …. or there could have been another reason for it.
Anthony Monaghan said at one point that although he knew that was not possible, he’d like to go back 20 years. At the turn of the century, i.e twenty years ago, the false Irish economy bubble was about to burst.
SPIRITUALITY IN RESISTANCE
In one scene, the camera follows Anthony Monaghan going down into a holy well (St. Dervla’s) near his original home and blessing himself with some of the water there. Remarking that although he does not condone the scandals that have come out of the church in recent decades, he regrets the Irish turning away from the Catholic faith, which he feels sustained us in years past and bound us together.
One of Monaghan’s interviewees points out that the worst thing about the scandals in the Church was not the abuses themselves but the cynical covering them up by those in authority, exposing more people still to abuse and suffering.
Talking about Catholicism as a binding agent of the Irish while almost in the next breath about our martyrs and heroes of the past, ignores a very important part of that very history of resistance which Monaghan upholds. The Catholic Church, from the moment Penal Laws began to be lifted, worked might and main against that Irish resistance. Its leadership condemned the United Irishmen (in particular the few priests who joined them), the Land League actions, the Fenians and the IRA in nearly every period and in all of its manifestations. In addition, the founders of the United Irishmen were Protestants, as were nearly all the prominent people of the Young Irelanders; Protestants were to be found too among the founders of the Volunteers, the Fianna, Ininí na hÉireann and the Irish Citizen Army.
In fact, history was sorely missing in all the analyses, since no-one pointed out that the State had been set up in a counterrevolution, an alliance of Catholic Church and Gombeen capitalist class under the old master’s tutelage. There seemed to be no acknowledgement that the Irish state is a neo-colony, run by a Gombeen capitalist and political class, its natural resources to be plundered by foreign multinationals, its services to be sold to the same, its own natural industries to be run down.
Human beings do have a spiritual sense, whatever anyone may say against that – but that is not necessarily about religion, contrary though that statement may seem. A sense of who we are as Irish people, as workers, as human beings, as part of life on earth, can be both practical and spiritual. It can be conveyed in language, song, poetry, visual art …. and in a knowledge of living history.
In that respect, it was strange that in a film about Ireland made by a man from Erris, by the Belmullet Peninsula and a large part of which figures in the narrative and images, there were only five words in Irish to be heard. For Béal Muirthead is a Gaeltacht, an Irish-speaking area, though shrinking under pressure from English-speaking monoglots.
it was an interesting film from the point of view of presenting the issues and gathering some opinions about them.
But as well as who were interviewed, it was interesting to note who were not. No active revolutionaries — socialist, communist, republican …. no activists in recent or current movements of resistance. And no reference to the mass mobilisations against the water charges and the local battles resisting meter installation. Nor of the demonstrations protesting homelessness. Not even a mention of the titanic (or biblical Davidian) struggle in Rossport, Mayo, against Shell BP.
The last song I remember hearing on the film’s soundtrack was James Connolly, not the song about the revolutionary socialist and trade union organiser he was (see below) but instead one which portrays him as an “Irish rebel” out of context, without mention of class or of the Irish Citizen Army, of which he was the leader.
Dublin Castle, located in the south city centre, has been the centre of the British occupation of Ireland since 1171 until 1921 (and even after that, some would say).The site offers one-hour guided tours to the public for much of the day, at approximately an hour apart, seven days a week and last year claimed a visitor total of nearly half a million. As a Dubliner interested in history and a walking tour guide, I was well overdue to take an official guided tour of the place, which I did recently.
Overall the State Rooms Tour was interesting and I did learn some things but I was also aware of many gaps. Was this unavoidable in a tour of one hour covering more than eleven hundred years (given that Viking Dublin was also covered) of history? Of course – but in the choices of what to leave out, was there an ideology at play, one that sought to diminish the repressive history of the institution and the struggle against it?
The first presentation to us by the tour guide was of Viking Dublin, the settlement of which took place in the 7th Century. The Vikings had a confrontational occupation of England but this had not been the case here, we were told – the Vikings settled amongst us, intermarried, introduced personal and family names, place-names, etc.
Well, somehow the tour spiel had ignored the many battles between the Vikings and the natives in Ireland even after the settlement in Dublin (and other areas), leading up the famous Battle of Clontarf in 1014, fought on what is now the north side of Dublin city. The 12-hour battle was important enough to be recorded elsewhere in Europe and in a Viking saga. Yes, it had also been an inter-Irish battle, in particular between the King of Leinster and the High King of Ireland but Viking Dublin played an important part, as did Viking allies and mercenaries from Manx and the Orkneys – and its result had ended forever any possibility of a Viking takeover of Ireland.
A noticeable gap in Irish-Viking history of Dublin to omit it, one might say.
Nevertheless, the tour guide gave us interesting information about the Viking settlement and a map showed an artist’s impression of how it would have looked.
Down in the base of what had been the Powder Tower, it was interesting to see the stone work, to hear the guide talk about the foundation of the Viking wall below us and how the cement used to bind the stones was a mixture of sand, oxblood, horsehair and eggshells. To me it was also interesting to see the stone course lines of one pointed arch above a curved one but unsure what I was looking at — and we were a big group, the tour guide some distance away to ask.
Down below the walkway, where water lay on the ground a couple of inches deep, some green plant was growing in the lights illuminating the work. This was above the route of the Poddle, I supposed, which once fed the Linn Dubh (black pool) and which now runs underneath Castle and city before emptying into the Liffey.
“BEYOND THE PALE”
The Normans reached Dublin in 1171 after landing in Wexford in 1169, our guide informed us but we were not told that in the process they defeated Irish resistance and the Dublin Vikings and, most curiously, there was no mention of the Pale. That would have been an interesting explanation to visitors of the origin of the expression “beyond the Pale” and what it implied1.
The guide did tell us later in the St. Patrick’s Hall (the State banquet room) that the paintings on the ceiling were to demonstrate to the Irish that all the civilising influences had come from the English to the Irish savages, that if the Irish were now civilised, their ranking was definitely below the English.
That might have been an appropriate time to mention of the Statutes of Killkenny 1366, nearly two centuries after the Norman invasion and how the Irish Normans had, outside Dublin, adopted ‘uncivilised’ Gaelic tongue, custom and even law, so that their cousins in England were now calling them “the degenerate English” who had become “more Irish than the Irish themselves”.
If the English Reformation got a mention I must have missed it but certainly there was nothing said about the imposition of the new religion on Ireland, colonists and natives alike and the many wars that resulted. Anglicanism had become the religion of the English State, with its monarch at the head of the Church but none of the Irish natives and most of the colonists did not wish to adopt that religion. So it led to many uprisings, first notably from the Irish Normans (Gall-Ghael), then by the Irish and a number of major wars, including the Cromwellian and Williamite ones, also to the Penal Laws. That State religion was the reason that Elizabeth I had founded Trinity College, so that the sons of the colonists would be educated in the “true faith”. Religion had been used by the coloniser to try to undermine unity among the inhabitants of Ireland and had been employed to physically divide the island in 1922, which had also led to a much more recent war of nearly three decades.
The Reformation and its effects seemed a quite significant portion to leave out of Irish history in general and of Dublin history in particular.
As the Castle had briefly been acknowledged as being, among other things, a prison, it seemed strange to omit the escape after four years of captivity of Red Hugh O’Donnel and two O’Neill brothers in 1592 — particularly so since the whole experience had left O’Donnell with a seething hatred of the English occupation which only ended years later in a poisoned death in Spain at the hands of an English agent. Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill, as he was known then to most of Ireland (and Scotland), fought the English occupation from 1591 to 1602. Apart from being an important part of the Castle’s history one would have thought it would make an exciting and interesting story for tourists.
However, the story was omitted – but then so were the tortures carried out in the Castle, the severed heads erected on spikes on Castle walls and, although it was said that it took the English 400 years to conquer the rest of Ireland, this was apparently because “there were no roads and there were lots of bogs”!
Commenting on later medieval Dublin city, the guide told us about the many diseases that were endemic, due to lack of sanitation in the city, along with blood-letting being the major medical treatment. It was strange that she did not mention the effects of the Black Death or Bubonic Plaque, which travelled through Ireland in 1634. The plague, carried by fleas on the black rat, affecting almost alone the city populations, almost wiped out the English colony in Ireland.
IRISH WOOD, FAKE STONE COLUMNS
In the Chapel, the guide pointed out the names and coats of arms on each side as being those of Lord Lieutenants of Ireland, i.e the representatives of the English monarch in governing Ireland. There were of course no native Irish names among them and few even of the Gall-Ghael.
One that took my attention, near the doorway, was that of Cornwallis, dated 1798. Lord Cornwallis (“Cornwall’” in the traditional ballad The Croppy Boy) was in charge of the suppression of the United Irishmen uprising in 1798, at which he was successful but less so in the Thirteen Colonies of North America, which he lost to rebellious colonists, some of whom were relatives and friends of the beaten republicans in Ireland.
In response to an enquiry as to whether there were any questions, I asked who were represented by the sculpted heads along the chapel wall on the outside. Some represented Christian saints and some kings, such as Brian Boru2, she replied. Is there a list available of who they all are? No, I was told, only of some of them and I could consult that later.
Amazingly, only the floor and walls in the chapel were stone. The columns, she told us, were Irish oak plastered over to look like stone.
MONARCHS AND PRESIDENTS
In her introduction to the tour, our guide had informed us that Lords, Kings, Queens and Presidents had visited the Castle. The creation of the role of President in the 1937 Constitution, she told us later, had been to replace that of the English Monarch. I had not been aware of that. She told us that he commanded the Army, which was news to me too (or I had forgotten) and it turns out to be true, though more so in form than in substance for, as she informed us, real power is vested in the Taoiseach (Prime Minister).
In the Throne Room we were told that Queen Victoria had visited Ireland 1n 1849 and had to be lifted up to the Throne, as she was so small (bit of a deflater for the lines in the “Monto” song!3).
In her visit to Ireland the guide told us, the Monarch had been shocked by the scenes of hunger during the “Famine” (the Great Hunger) and that aid to the starving improved after her visit. Well, perhaps but the effects of the Great Hunger were covered in newspapers and appeals long before 1849 and the worst of the holocaust was over before then, the statistics of which the guide gave us; in our folk history Victoria is referred to as “the Famine Queen”.
The guide made much of the fact that Queen Elizabeth II (who might be known in a republic as: “Ms. Elizabeth Windsor”), had visited the Castle, had spoken in Irish at the reception banquet and how this was the first time an English monarch had spoken English at a State occasion, though Elizabeth I she told us knew a few Irish phrases.4 The guide attached no little importance to Elizabeth I’s gesture and to the whole visit as an act of reconciliation and we know that no less than the Irish President at the time, Mary Mac Aleese, had looked around mouthing “Wow!” when the monarch spoke five words in Irish: “A Uachtaráin agus a chairde … (“President and friends” …).
Such is the sycophancy of the Castle Irish mentality, that five words in the native language of a country being visited by a head of a foreign state should evoke such wonder and gratitude in their hearts. Forgetting that the very colonial regime of that state had for centuries worked to stamp out that language, barring it from all public arenas and educational institutions. One must wonder that a monarch whose armed forces are in occupation of one-sixth of the nation’s territory should be so honoured by the head of this state and other dignitaries from the areas of politics and visual, written and performing arts!5
I could have commented that during the Monarch’s visit, huge areas of the city centre had been barred to traffic by the police force of this “republic” in a huge negation of civil liberties; that police had been taking down posters against the visit and ripping even Irish tricololour flags from the hands of protester to stuff them in rubbish bins and truck; that Dublin City Council workmen had been removing anti-Royal graffiti while workers’ housing estates had been waiting for years for a cleanup service.
Guiding a small Latin American tour through the Castle grounds a few days before the scheduled banquet-reception, we were accosted by secret police who required us to state and prove our identities, state our reasons for being there (!) and the tour group to hand over their cameras for the agents to scroll through their histories. And the agents seemed surprised when I failed to agree with them that their actions had been reasonable.
I could have said that during Elizabeth Windsor’s reception banquet I had been with others in Thomas Street protesting her Castle reception and that at the corner with Patrick Street, we had been prevented by lines of riot Gardai from proceeding any further – not out of concern for her security but so that Her Majesty should not even hear any sound or see anything to disturb the serenity of her visit.
I did not say any of that – I still had a tour to finish and, besides, no doubt this is the Castle Tour Discourse, not to be blamed on one guide.
We were shown too the two banquet halls, the original and the one for state visits nowadays as the original was “too small”.6 And the sights of hunger outside the Castle walls in 1849 had not seemed to intrude on the guests enjoying the five-course meal served at Victoria’s welcoming banquet.
Seeming somewhat out of place, there was also an exhibition of Irish painting of the modernist school.
Portraits of the Presidents of the Irish State lined the corridor through which we passed to St. Patrick’s Hall (also the Irish State banquet room) and I could not help but contemplate that of the nine Presidents to date, one had been a founder of an organisation banned by the British occupation, another two had been soldiers against the British occupation but had since taken part in the suppression of their erstwhile comrades.
Another was the son of an Englishman who became an Irish Republican and was executed by the Irish state and another had resigned after being insulted in the Dáil by a Minister of the Government.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, nothing was said about any of that, either.
NO CASTLE CATHOLICS OR COPS?
Coming into more modern times, the I916 Rising got a reference, unsurprisingly as a detachment of the Irish Citizen Army had besieged the Castle for a couple of days, mostly from the nearby City Hall; the ICA’s leader, ironically, had been brought a wounded prisoner from Moore Street and treated in the Castle too. That was James Connolly and he was mentioned — though the ICA was not, nor were we informed that he was a revolutionary socialist. We were told we could visit the room named after him in which he had been held and treated on a bed there. After the end of the guided tour I went there and although it was an experience to enter the room of course the actual display was disappointingly sparse.
As headquarters of the British occupation of Ireland and necessarily of repression of resistance, the Castle always had soldiers stationed or passing through there. But it also held a police force, the secret service of the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Usually unarmed with more than a truncheon up until 1916, the uniformed DMP maintained order and bourgeois public morality in Dublin but also repressed public resistance to the British occupation. Not only sex workers and drunks were arrested but so were singers of patriotic ballads, protesters and public speakers. During times of Fenian activity, the DMP also worked to counter the influence of Irish patriots in the city and the plain-clothes G Division was created in 1874 to recruit informers and hunt down active Fenians.
A section of the Fenians were however prepared to counter this with assassinations of informers, some DMP and attempts on the lives of senior DMP officials in the city7 during the mid 19th Century. In the early years of the 20th Century it was G Division which also spied on activists in the trade union and labour movement, nationalists, republicans, the Irish language movement and suffragettes and it was they who identified Irish insurgent prisoners captured by the British Army in 1916, ensuring the death sentence for many (though 14 were eventually executed in Dublin).
The DMP, mostly the uniformed officers, could in fact be credited with being the inspiration to form the Irish Citizen Army: the vicious and sometimes murderous attacks of the DMP on workers’ assemblies during the 1913 Dublin Lockout had decided James Connolly and Jim Larkin to call for the creation of the workers’ militia. During the Rising, it seems that three DMP were shot dead, all by members of the ICA, one of them being at the Dublin Castle entrance.
On Bloody Sunday 1920, during the War of Independence, two IRA officers and an Irish language enthusiast prisoners were tortured and killed in Dublin Castle by police, including the specially-recruited terrorists of the Auxiliary Division. In order to cover up their actions, the police staged photos which they claimed depicted the prisoners not properly guarded and then jumping their guards to seize their weapons, which is how they came by their deaths, according to the cover story.
Soon after that, G Division detectives were being killed in various parts of the city by Collins’ Squad and the Dublin IRA. In fact, a number of the officers and of British Army spies took up residence in the Castle itself, for protection.
After the creation of the Irish Free State in 1921, the independence movement split and in the following Civil War (1922-1923) the repression of the continuing resistance was mostly the work of the Irish National Army. However, when the Irish police force was established, the Gardaí Síochána, their Special Branch detectives were again based in Dublin Castle,8 though they are based elsewhere now.
Since there was no mention of any this on our tour, a significant part of Castle history was being omitted.
CASTLE CATHOLIC IDEOLOGY?
There existed during the British occupation a social group — or perhaps more than one — that in the commentary of most Irish, perhaps, were referred to as “Castle Catholics”. This was not a reference to Catholics who owned a castle but to those of the native and Norman-Irish stock, i.e nearly all Catholics who, while maintaining their religion, bowed to the English occupation in everything else. And particularly the more elevated echelons among that group, for whom attendance at functions in the Castle were the high point of their social calendars and indeed their lives. Ag sodar i ndiaidh na n-uaisle9, as the Irish have it in their native tongue.
With some exceptions, I thought the tour and commentary, although interesting and of course catering to the expectations of foreign tourists, had more than a little of “Castle Catholic” or, better said, “Castle Irish” to it.
And it therefore lost a lot in the telling.
1Effectively an English anti-Irish racist term: “The Pale” referred at first to the areas enclosed by the Normans by an earthworks surmounted by a wooden palisade, i.e the area of colonist control. “Beyond the Pale” were the areas still under control of the Irish clans, uncivilised in the viewpoint of the colonists and the expression survives in English today to describe something as being a horror.
2A missed opportunity to mention the Battle of Clontarf and the defeat of the Dublin Viking and Irish Leinster forces!
4Apparently Elizabeth I had a fair bit of linguistic ability, being fluent in English, Latin and French. It is believed by some that she knew more than a few phrases of Irish, having been taught by a tutor she recruited.
5Among them were the musicians The Chieftains and the poet laureate Heaney who had, some decades earlier written that “no glass was ever raised in our house to an English King or Queen”!
6There were 172 dinner guests at the banquet to welcome Elizabeth I of the UK.
7For a good atmospheric account of the struggle between the two forces, see The Shadow of the Brotherhood – the Temple Bar shootings by Barry Kennerc, Mercer (2010)
8An Irish Republican ballad of the early 1970s based on an earlier song had it thus:
“Oh the Special Branch in Dublin,
They’re something for to see:
They crawl out from the Castle
To inform on you and me.
But the day is coming soon me boys
And the rifles they will bark –
This month the shamrock is blooming all around. The cluster flower is not very prominent individually but together can produce a yellow-green carpet effect, yellow for the flowers and green for the leaves.
Who is to say that the shamrock has a yellow flower? Why not the white clover? Well, amateur botanist and zoologist Nathaniel Colgan (1851-1919) once asked people from around Ireland to send him specimens of what they believed to be an Irish shamrock and identified the five most common plant species, of which the two most common were the yellow (flowering) clover followed by the white.A hundred years later, Dr Charles Nelson repeated the experiment in 1988 and found that yellow clover was still the most commonly chosen. According to Wikipedia, yellow clover is also the species cultivated for sale in Ireland on Saint Patrick’s Day and is the one nominated by the Department of Agriculture as the “official” shamrock of Ireland.
But sometimes, the yellow-flowered speciesTrifolium dubium (Irish: Seamair bhuí) can be found growing next to the white-flowered Trifolium repens (White Clover; Irish: Seamair bhán), although they never really intermingle.
The clover family belong to a group of plants that have the ability to fix nitrogen in nodes around their roots and, as a result, provide nutrition for plants that need nitrogen.The plant, like the rest of its family, produces pods but in the shamrock’s case, the pods are tiny and contain only a single seed. Pods protect the development of seeds until they are ready to shed (or in some cases, like the gorse or furze, to explode!).
In cropped or mown lawns, or in poor soil, the shamrock hugs the ground. However, given conditions for growth but having to compete with other plants for sunlight, it will grow long stems reaching upwards.
Once flowering is over, probably in August, one can dig up a small section and transplant to flower box or pot in order to harvest sprigs of it for St. Patrick’s day on March 17th (a tradition that is nothing as old as people might think).
But nobody planted the shamrock in the lawn – it got there by its own natural methods, possibly by wind or in animal excreta. Unlike the lawn on which it has set up its colonies, which was seeded on raked earth or, more likely, laid in grass turf rolls, it is in fact a part of wildlife in the city.
Solidarity protest picket lines up outside the The Ivy restaurant in Dublin city centre’s Dawson Street and, as management draw the blinds to hide the event from their customers, passers-by take photos and passing traffic sound horns in solidarity.
On Saturday afternoon (8th June) round a score of men and women participated in a picket outside the The Ivy restaurant in protest against management deducting a percentage of the waiting staff’s tips. The management are able to take this action when customers pay by bank card for their meals as well as the service charge. The protesters were also in solidarity with two sacked workers who protested the practice.
The business pays minimum wage every day except Sunday and staff expect to make a decent wage up from tips ….. but, much of the tips money is being taken by the management.
The protesters held up large placards bearing the slogans: “Ivy: stop robbing your staff!”, “Vote Ivy No.1 for unfair dismissal”; “Ivy, stop tip theft!”; “Solidarity with sacked workers” and also displayed a banner which, as well as reading “Stop tip theft” also called for “fair pay and union rights”. The picketers later also held up large letters to display the message STOP TIPS THEFT.
Dawson Street, in which the Ivy Restaurant is located, is an upper-class southside city centre street of mostly old architecture, filled with eateries, art galleries and bookshops and also containing the Mansion House, a historic building and the Lord Mayor’s business residence. It is one of two public bus routes from the south-east into the city centre and also contains a LUAS (tramline) stop.
Drivers of a number of passing private and public transport vehicles sounded their horns in solidarity while passing the picket while tourists and others took photos and promised to post them on social media. A number of tourists from the Spanish state asked about the protest and I when I explained, were fully supportive.
Since I participated in this protest myself, I was able to identify participants from a range of political allegiances and independents and they included a number of recently-elected Dublin City Councillors (a previous picket I wrote about included a TD – member of the Irish Parliament).
This controversy has been going on for some time and has been reported in the Irish Times (see Links and References). Since the protests began, management of the once-highly-patronised restaurant had blinds installed so that they could shield their customers from the sight of the picketers but even so, they could not avoid hearing the bullhorns and the chanting outside.
Chants included “Shame, shame, shame on you; pay the workers what they’re due!”
Reports indicate that business at the restaurant in fashionable Dawson Street is down by as much as 40% on many days which bodes ill not only for the restaurant at present but also if the owners try to sell it, since the reputation associated with the business will be of a negative kind.
Catering workers through much of the world are typically unorganised into trade unions, have insecure employment, are often immigrants to the country and are particularly vulnerable to extra exploitation. Ireland is no exception to this rule and there are many examples of it in Dublin. Campaigners for better conditions of employment and pay for catering workers are aware that the Ivy is one among many but hope that breaking the tip-deducting practice at this high-visibility eatery will spread a beneficial effect around the rest of the industry.
Meanwhile the two workers sacked by The Ivy are awaiting their day in the Labour Court.
I am rubbish at predicting broad election results. But the mass media is predicting, on early returns, a huge electoral swing in Ireland towards the Green Party — at least in the municipal elections.
As I type these words the other candidates who failed to get elected as municipal councillors in the Irish state — or barely scraped through — will be licking their wounds. The Greens will be celebrating, of course, spouting their analysis of what this means, of a huge change in the Irish people, of climate change awareness ….
And the media will be parroting them.
MORE OF THE SAME
I don’t believe the voting results are because of any great change in the consciousness of the Irish electorate — in fact I think it’s basically more of the same.
Why then the electoral surge towards the Greens? I don’t think that climate change issues — or more accurately the public perception of them — are enough to explain it, though it will no doubt have influenced some voters. I think the fundamental reason is that the Greens are not Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour or Sinn Féin. True, they are tainted from partnership with FF in the past but that was only a couple of them and a lot of water has gone under the bridges of Irish rivers since then.
I wouldn’t trust the Greens in power as far as I could throw an iceberg but I think what I’ve said above is the reality.
The 26-County electorate has traditionally voted either FF or FG into power. The latter normally needed another partner to form a majority, which Labour opportunistically gave them and later the party always paid the price, while a few of its leaders got fat pensions out of it.
Apparently every Irish government since the intervention of Hunger Strike candidates in 1981 has been a coalition, which testifies to an electorate generally unconvinced by either main party. But since the bank bailout, the electorate seems to have been even more disenchanted, voting for outsiders in the race and hedging their bets between parties, like spreading the risk in investments.
In the 2011 General Election, the voters kicked out FF to the lowest vote in the party’s history along with wiping out its Green party partners and, apart from voting in a lot of independents (mostly left-wing ones), they gave most votes to the party most likely to dislodge FF, which of course was FG. And they spread the risk by giving Labour a lot of votes. Despite the hopes of the electorate this coalition basically gave us more of the same — privatisation of lucrative state services, mismanagement of others, expanding housing crisis and austerity measures.
So they put in a lot of SF in another year and what do they get? A party that votes in Dublin to hand over Council land to speculators because SOME ‘social housing’ will be built on it. Resignations of elected representatives through alleged internal party shenanigans. A party that has long ago lost interest in organising a base for anything except voting — a mirror, in fact, of FF in the past. And which, while playing sectarian politics in the Six Counties has supported — and implemented — austerity measures of the British State.
Media commentators will search for many reasons for this change — youth vote, middle-class vote, climate change consciousness and general environmental awareness. I think there is a more fundamental reason which the commentators would probably rather not acknowledge, since it questions, not the viability of this or that party, but the whole system.
I don’t believe the people have any great faith in the Green Party and this elections seems more of the same behaviour of the electorate. Change the faces every so often — and spread the risk.
Nor do I blame the electorate — for what visible and realistic alternative has presented itself?
The above was the title of an event as part of the James Connolly Festival 2019 and was held in the Bohemians FC Members’ Bar in Dalymount Park, Phibsborough, Dublin on 7th May. The event was chaired by Spark Podcast and had three speakers, one from a Direct Provision asylum seeker’s hostel, another from a Brazilian immigrant community and a third from Kerala state in India but resident in Ireland.
The first speaker was Bulelani Mfaco who introduced himself as a South African, gay and an asylum seeker. Speaking about racism, he said that it was necessary to stand up to it and quoted the example several times of Mary Manning, who was one of eleven strikers (“Ten Young Women and One Young Man”, song by Ewan McColl) in Dunne’s Stores in Dublin in pursuance of their union’s policy (IDATU) not to handle South African goods while the white racist regime was in power.
Bulelani said that fascists mean what the say in their threats about their targets, blacks, gays, asylum seekers, women who won’t act as the fascist think they should …. and so they should be prevented from coming to power. He said that as a black man he is aware of racism often on the street.
Speaking about the conditions of asylum seekers and the conditions imposed on them, including being asked to prove that he was gay (!!!), he said they do not come as freeloaders but are prevented from working while their cases are examined, which can take years, therefore the Government’s system forces them to be recipients of aid. Once a judgement is given, which in 9 out of 10 cases is a rejection of the application to stay, they can appeal and racists say they are just doing that to delay the process of their expulsion. In reality, many cases are successful on appeal as the reasons stated for rejection at the first stage were so irrational.
He also pointed out that seeking asylum has no necessary link to war but is about a person “having a reasonable fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a social group or political opinion and is expelled or chooses to leave their country because of one of those factors”. A “social group” under threat could mean and often does, being one lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender.
Eloquent and with wide knowledge about people seeking asylum in different countries, Bulelani was at times in danger of leaving the other speakers without enough time for their own contributions.
Rafaela Ferracuti (Brazilian Left Front) spoke about the fascist and racist policies of the current regime in Brazil and the harmful reforms of workers rights’ and open justification of attacks on indigenous people. Ferracuti spoke also about the situation of Brazilian migrants working in Ireland and referred to a fairly recent attack on some of them by Travellers. Asking for people to support Brazilian workers here, Rafaela also spoke about links with the Workers’ Party (which I assumed incorrectly at the time to be a generic term or a Brazilian party I had not heard of).
Manoj Mannath (of Kranthi organisation) talked about the slow climbing to power in an Indian state of a fascist party and talked about the process they had followed to do so, using Hindu religion in a supremacist way and also targeting those of the “untouchable” (sic) class.
Both Ferracuti and Mannath were speaking with difficulty in a language other than their own and I found it quite hard to follow them at times.
During questions and contributions, the following points were made or clarified:
The attack on Portuguese migrants by Travelers was wrong but some of the response by Portuguese migrants had been to leave racist graffiti, which would not help matters.
Irish Travelers are or have been for a long time the most discriminated-against section of Irish society with hard living conditions and high infant mortality and as often happens with people pushed to the bottom, some of them have turned to drugs and feuds are breaking out between rival gangs.
One person opined that the Government does not want to stop immigration but to control it and keep migrants insecure and with little rights, the easier to exploit them. The trade unions should recruit migrants to help them and also to prevent them being used as cheap labour to undermine any conditions won by Irish workers.
The Irish have been migrants to many countries and some had joined the oppressors while others became prominent in workers’ resistance.
Another ascertained that Rafaela had been referring to the Irish organisation the Workers’ Party and she stated that it is an anti-immigration party.
Another contribution stated that as well as the work of attacking racist policies and statements, fascists had to be prevented from establishing themselves and referred to the prevention in Dublin a few years ago of the launch of Pegida, a Europe-wide fascist organisation targeting Muslims. The Irish and Polish components had been physically prevented from holding their rally and anti-fascists are currently being taken through the courts on serious charges. He felt that these people should be supported.
Yet another responded that although that action was good, when one got to that stage, it was already too late.
The use of religion to divide people in India was compared to its use by the British occupation in Ireland but also by the same British colonisers in India and in some other lands.
Another said that the real target of fascists was the indigenous mass of people and that the other targets were being put up as diversions. As the economic situation worsens, the capitalists need to suppress the struggles of the working class and sections are targeted in order to divide the opposition.
There was general agreement that the various targeted sectors and the Irish working people needed to support one another.
The James Connolly Festival is an annual week-long event of talks on political events and sometimes cultural performances organised in the month of May in Dublin by the Communist Party of Ireland and open to the public. There is a program of other events continuing every day until Sunday: http://jamesconnollyfestival.com/#about
Overall, I felt quite disappointed. I had assumed the talks and the meeting would concentrate on the practical and ideological struggle against fascism and the rise of the far-right in Ireland and perhaps in Europe, with some lessons from further afield. Or possibly even on concrete actions that might be taken to support asylum seekers. Perhaps that was an unwarranted assumption but in any case, apart from the contribution of Bulelani Mfaco, the South African asylum seeker, the examples (as far as I could understand them), though of interest, seemed to have little direct relevance to the struggle here in Ireland.