In 1998, An Post, the Irish postal service (through the Department of Post and Telegraphs? Through the Office of Public Works, which manages national monuments?), commissioned a series of ten paintings of 1916 Rising scenes from painter Norman Teeling. For a number of years, these were on display in the General Post Office, site of the Headquarters of the 1916 Rising. Subsequently they were removed and enquirers were informed that they had been taken into storage. Complaints were made by organisations and individuals but no information was forthcoming as to when, if ever, they would be replaced in the GPO or put on display elsewhere. Now, it seems they are up for sale. How can this be?
THE MISSING PAINTINGS
A recent discussion about the paintings in question led to my being sent a link, where the opening information said that they had been put on display in the Green Gallery, St. Stephen’s Green:
Through perseverance and dedication to the cause, Dermot O’Grady of The Green Gallery has arranged for all 10 paintings to take pride of place in a stunning new 1916exhibition on the Top Floor. St. Stephens Green Ctr Dublin 2. Opened by none other than Pat Liddy himself, the paintings have found an important rebirth and are now able to be enjoyed by everyone once again.
However, a little further down the page, a notice declared that the exhibition had closed.
But elsewhere on the page, it had been announced that, as well as prints of the paintings, the original oil-paintings on canvas were for sale:
This suite of 10 paintings has now become available to the art market. As the original oil on canvas paintings and also, with permission of the artist, in Giclée print format.
How could this be? Had they not been purchased by the State?
A wikipedia search threw up two references to the series of paintings: one for the General Post Office and another for the 1916 Rising, with what seemed to be an excerpt from each. The GPO reference had the following:
An Post History and Heritage – The GPO Museum The 1916 Rising by NormanTeelinga ten-paintingsuite of events of the Easter Rising acquired for permanent ….
And the 1916 reference had this:
The Age, 27 April 1916 Press comments 1916–1996 The 1916 Rising by NormanTeeling a 10-painting suite acquired by An Post for permanent display at the …
So from both of these I should find the information I required, i.e what had happened to the paintings. Right?
But no, neither Wikipedia page had any reference in the text to the painting series nor to the painter! Had the pages once contained the quoted references and more but these had since been removed? However, in the External Links of the both Wikipedia pages I found the sentence “The 1916 Rising by Norman Teeling a ten-painting suite of events of the Easter Rising acquired for permanent display at the GPO.” But they are not, are they?
A good investigative reporter would make enquiries of the painter, of the Green Gallery, of An Post, of the OPW …. but I am not such a reporter nor do I have the time to make those enquiries and perhaps, as has often been the case in the past, suffer long delays or even be given the run around.
A good investigative reporter would hold off writing until he had got to the bottom of the story or at least exhausted reasonable lines of investigation but, as has already been established, I am not one of those people. So I am putting it out there now, for some of you to make the necessary enquiries or, if you already know, to come back to me.
Had the State never in fact bought the paintings? Or if they had, were they now sold back to the painter or someone else? Had Teeling become frustrated with his paintings not being on display and bought them back from the State? If so, entirely understandable on his part.
Forty-five years after the highest violent loss of life of any day in the Thirty-Years War in Ireland, survivors and relatives of victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombing seem no nearer achieving justice. The identities of some of the Loyalist terrorists were known quite quickly after the bombing by Irish Army Intelligence and Garda Special Branch; British Intelligence penetration of some Irish State agencies had already been claimed by Irish Army intelligence and not long afterwards, Commissioner Ned Garvey was exposed as a British agent by a disgruntled British intelligence operative. Yet no arrests by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, no arrest warrants issued by the Irish Government and – incredibly – remains of bomb material were sent by Garvey’s superior to the British colony authorities for analysis. And consecutive British Governments refuse to hand over the relevant files or to disclose their contents.
45th ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATION IN DUBLIN
A crowd had gathered at the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings Monument in Talbot Street for some time before the event was due to start on the 17th May. Aidan Shields, whose mother Maureen was killed in in Talbot Street, acted as the master of ceremonies and, after saying a few words about the bombings and the campaign, outlined the course the proceedings would follow, apologising also to those who had to stand in the rain.
Irish Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan spoke about the bombings and about the efforts he had made, on behalf of the Government, to have the British Government lift their embargo on the relevant files. He also used the opportunity to criticise by implication the armed Republican resistance in the British colony and to promote the Good Friday Agreement, seeking collaboration between different political parties in running the Six Counties, i.e the British colony. Although he said he shared the relatives’ frustration at the British Government still not disclosing the information about the bombing in their files, not once did he condemn them, nor criticise successive British governments, British Intelligence nor the administration of the colony and its police force.
The Mayor of Dublin Niall Ring and Cathaoirleach of Monaghan Council, David Maxwell, also spoke at the event.
It was left to Noel Hegarty, a survivor of the bombing, in a poem (see References) and Pat Savage in his Song for Derek (which I’ve been unable to find on line) to place the blame for the attack and the lack of progress where it belonged.
Julieann Campbell, author and Derry Bloody Sunday relative – her uncle John Duddy was the first fatal victim of the Paratroopers on that day in 1972 — gave the oration for the ceremony. She talked about the loss through sudden death, the effect on relatives and how it is exacerbated when official lies are told about the deaths with secrecy used to make it harder for the relatives and survivors to get at the truth. She referred to one British file on Bloody Sunday that is embargoed for decades yet and turned to Minister Flanagan, asking him publicly to press the British for the release of that file also, a request which was applauded by the crowd.
Rachel Hegarty read one of her sonnets from her collection, May Day 1974, which she composed based on witness testimonies about the deceased and Ciarán Warfield performed a song about the bombing and the lack of justice obtained. Fr. Tom Clowe led those who wished to respond in a Christian prayer (the Rev. Trevor Sargent had injured himself the day before and was unable to attend). Cormac Breatnach played low whistle while floral wreaths were laid and again at the conclusion of the event.
THE BOMBING 45 YEARS AGO – THREE BOMBS IN DUBLIN AND ONE IN MONAGHAN
What might be considered the official Dublin City centre is the area surrounding O’Connel Street, just north of the river Liffey. The street runs north-south and is bisected at its middle by a thoroughfare running east-west. The eastern part is mostly Talbot Street, with a short continuation named North Earl Street. Crossing over O’Connell Street one now passes by the Spire, where once stood Nelson’s Column (until blown up by dissident Republicans in 1966) and continuing westward, one enters Henry Street. This street contains big stores such as Debenhams and Arnotts and is a higher-class shopping street than are the streets chosen to place two bombs, Talbot Street; could it have been decided that predominantly working and lower-middle class victims were less likely to create pressure on the Irish Government to find those responsible? The other bomb’s target street, Parnell, is also not one of high-end shopping.
There had been previous Loyalist bombings in Dublin, for example of the Wolfe Tone Monument in Stephens Green and the O’Connell Monument in Glasnevin Cemetery. None of those had caused deaths but a bombing in 1972 had killed a public transport worker and another, in 1973, had killed two and injured 185. No arrests were made in connection with either and in fact the Fianna Fáil government blamed Irish Republicans for the ’72 bombing, using the emotions engendered to push through more repressive legislation. That was an Amendment to the Offences Against the State Act, one which allowed the State to jail people on a charge of belonging to an illegal organisation, without any evidence other than the word of a Garda of Superintendent rank or higher and is regularly used to convict people today.
On the 17th May 1974four bombs exploded in Dublin and Monaghan – killing 33 people including a woman who was nine months pregnant.
Three car bombs exploded without warning in the capital shortly before 5.30pm on Friday 17 May 1974.
Two of the bombs went off on Talbot and Parnell Streets before a third blast exploded on South Leinster Street near Trinity College, 27 people died.
Shortly afterwards another bomb exploded outside a pub in Monaghan, killing seven people. Hundreds more were injured.
After the bombings, the most concrete result in Irish Government policy was that Irish Republicans being sought by the British began to be tried in the Irish State. The Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act 1976 allowed trial in the Republic for alleged crimes committed in the Six Counties, and vice versa, which facilitated Irish State cooperation with the British State against Republicans, overcoming the many failures in extradition cases up to that date.
This parallels somewhat the 1980s GAL terrorist campaign waged by the Spanish Government against Basque independentists in the northern Basque Country, part of the French State’s territory. After Spanish State-sponsored terrorist shootings and bombings of independentist Basques for some time on what it considers French soil, the French Government began to extradite refugees to the Spanish State. However it was 1984 before the Irish State actually extradited a Republican to the Six Counties, with the extradition of Dominic McGlinchey (who subsequently had his conviction overturned there). It is curious that this possible rationale for the Dublin/ Monaghan bombings does not seem to have been considered – after all, the 1972 bombings by British agents had resulted in a change in Irish law to the disadvantage of Republicans within the Irish State.
The Justice for the Forgotten campaign organises an annual commemoration on the date of the bombings but internationally and perhaps even in Ireland, this massacre is the least-known of all that took place during the recent 30 Years War. Arguably this is because a) the bombs were not placed by the IRA and the massacre was not therefore of much use in propaganda against them; b) the victims were mostly Irish and/or c) the perpetrators were Loyalists and British Intelligence operatives working together.
SECRETS AND AVOIDANCE
It is interesting how coyly the media treat the whole question of British collusion with Loyalist death squads, including the Glenanne Gang’s involvement in the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, along with Irish State‘s lack of energy in pursuing the matter, including possible collusion and certain secrecy. There are sometimes ‘suspicions’, ‘concerns’, ‘inferences’, ‘allegations’ ….
And yet most of these matters are beyond speculation, established as facts through a number of different sources. Contrast that with how happy the media are to label the tragic but accidental shooting dead of Lyra McKee as a “murder”, even though legally and in fact, murder can only be when someone intends to kill the victim – which not even the press in its greatest hysteria has tried to suggest was the case.
The Justice for the Forgotten campaign has taken a civil case against the British State which appears to be playing its usual delaying game in situations like this. On 17th April they were due to respond to questions of the campaign’s lawyers but did not do so until eight days later, which resulted in the campaign’s lawyers not being able to proceed at the Belfast High Court on May 1st ….. The relatives will now have to wait until September.
The lack of energy and firmness in pursuing the issues and the disclosure of British files is not the only evidence of the Irish State’s lack of interest. It is also the case that much of the funding for the Justice for the Forgotten campaign was removed by the Irish Government some years ago; the campaign was obliged to leave its Gardiner Street office and remove much of their equipment and files to a portakabin in a supporter’s back garden.
The British are not the only ones sitting on secret files. Mrs. O’Neill had called on Leo Varadkar to release the files deposited by the McEntee Commission, which was charged with investigating the Garda inquiry of the time, an inquiry which has been heavily criticised over the years. “I personally ask the Taoiseach to consider this reasonable and fair request,” she had said. Martha O’Neill’s husband, Eddie, was killed in the bombing and her sons Billy, then aged seven and Eddie jnr. aged five, were badly injured but survived.
Last year, Fred Holroyd, a British Army Intelligence officer who was the liaison with the RUC for a number of years during part of the three decades of war in the Six Counties, offered to give evidence on British involvement in the bombings – but in a secret court. Holroyd is suing the British Ministry of Defence over sacking him and has spoken out about collusion between the British administration and Loyalist paramilitaries including those widely believed to be the Loyalist bombers responsible for the carnage on the 17th May 1974.
Another measure of the Irish Government’s lack of enthusiasm for going after the perpetrators of the bombings and their handlers can be seen in the fact that the first documentary to be made about the atrocity in the Irish capital cityand Monaghan town, was made not bythe State broadcaster, RTÉ but by the English company First Tuesday, Yorkshire TV. “Hidden Hand – The Forgotten Massacre” was broadcast on 6 July 1993. Not everyone who had TV in the state then had ITV – I believe it required a special aerial at the time – and if memory serves me correctly, Yorkshire TV offered simultaneous screening to RTÉ, which it declined. The program made a case that the British Army, the RUC and Loyalist paramilitaries could have been involved in a number of killings, including the Dublin-Monaghan bombings.
The failure of the Irish Government at the time to pursue the case energetically and in a correct manner was responsible for much more than leaving the injured and the the relatives of 33 murdered people without justice. It also left the Glenanne Gang, a Loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force death squad that included serving members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary police force and the British Army’s Ulster Defence Force, free to carry out around another 120 sectarian murders in the Six Counties.
Year after year, the Dublin/ Monaghan commemoration is held and year after year, relatives call for truth and justice; the Irish politicians express regrets and say that they will ask the British Government for the files again, to be refused again. And there it is left, until the following anniversary.
AN GORTA MÓR COMMEMORATED IN SLIGO, DUBLIN AND CELTIC PARK
(Reading time of article text: 5 minutes)
A small crowd gathered at the Garden of Remembrance, Dublin on Sunday afternoon to commemorate the Great Hunger, an Gorta Mór on National Famine Day. Led by a lone piper, they marched through O’Connell St., the city’s main street, some of them in period costume, to the Great Hunger Memorial on the Custom House Quay, North Dock and later on to the iconic sailing ship, the Jeannie Johnson.
With some adults and children dressed in period clothes, some of them tattered to represent the destitution of the starving poor, they marched down O’Connell Street led by the lone piper and turned left at the Bridge, proceeding along to Custom Quay’s North Dock and the Great Hunger memorial. There they were addressed by Michael Blanch of the organising committee and by Niall Ring, Lord Mayor (coming to the end of his year in that role), who had accompanied them from the Garden of Remembrance.
Some sentences in Irish were spoken by the MC of the event and by the Lord Mayor, while Michael Blanch referenced the deadly impact the Great Hunger had on the Irish language (i.e with the depopulation of the main Irish-speaking areas of the western seaboard). The Irish Tricolour came in for a mention in the Dublin commemoration also; it had been presented to William Smith O’Brien by women in Paris during the revolution there of 1848 and the Young Irelanders had staged their own uprising that year also, small and certainly too late, easily crushed by the British colonial forces. The huge Irish diaspora was also mostly a result of the Great Hunger and had contributed significantly to the formation and membership of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, also known as the Fenians, founded simultaneously in 1858 on St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin and in New York. The IRB, in turn, had been the main driving force behind the 1916 Rising.
Tourists and other passers-by stopped to watch as wreaths were laid on on the statues of the monument and an Irish-language version of Amazing Grace was sung by a young girl in period costume. A currach (small traditional Irish sea-craft), containing a woman and two young girls in period costume and rowed by a man, pulled into place on the Liffey across from the group; one of the girls placed a wreath in a cardboard box into the river, to commemorate the Irish diaspora and those who had perished during their journeys. Participants then threw single red roses bouquets into the river also and floral wreaths were deposited around the statues of the 1977 memorial by sculptor Rowan Gillespie. And the piper played a lament, Hector the Hero.
The gathering moved on then to the sailing ship the Jeannie Johnson, to hear Evelyn Campbell sing her Famine Song and Diarmuid Breatnach sing Skibereen and Fields of Athenry. After that, some repaired to the Teachers’ Club, where tea, sandwiches, gur cake and biscuits were on offer. By coincidence, a Musical Society were relaxing there too and it was not long before songs from different parts of the world were being exchanged from different parts of the room.
THE CAMPAIGN FOR A NATIONAL IRISH FAMINE DAY
The Great Hunger is the preferred term in English by many for the terrible disaster that struck Ireland in the mid-19th Century, for people starved alongside what was for a while at least, an abundance of food.
For three successive years, a fungus-like oomycete infested the potato crop, staple diet of most of the population. AlthoughPhytophthora infestanshad attacked the potato crops on the European mainland and in Britain also, nowhere was the disaster of the dimensions it grew to in Ireland: nowhere else were the the majority of the population obliged to sustain themselves on the potato while yielding up every other edible product (except perhaps milk) to pay the landlord’s rent on land conquered from the ancestors of the starving, thousands of soldiers and police being on hand to ensure the hungry paid up. “The Almighty indeed sent the potato blight”, wrote Young Irelander journalist John Mitchell, “but the English created the Famine.”
Well over one million Irish starved or died of attendant diseases in less than five years during the reign of Queen Victoria, while ships left Irish ports laden with food and grain was fermented to make lucrative whiskey and beer. Another million emigrated and it is estimated that about one third of those also died – of drowning, of disease aboard ship or of the various dangers migrants faced. Five years after the potato crop failed, estimates put the population of Ireland at around six million, from the over 8 million of before. Over the next decade, another million would leave, paid to go, lied to go, forced to go, or gone out of desperation and loss of faith in any future in the country of their birth under foreign domination.
In 2008 it was agreed by the Irish Government that there would be a national Famine Day in the Irish calendar of national events and it would take place on the third Sunday in May. The State commemoration this year was held in Sligo, attended by Leo Varadkar (who was met by a protest of the Sligo Women’s Cervical Smear Action Group). The ceremony was covered in the RTÉ news which was shown on TV in the Teacher’s Club. Michael Blanch told those present that the campaign he and his wife had started in 2004 through the Committee for the Commemoration of Irish Famine Victims, had resulted in this national event and that it was also being commemorated by the Glasgow Celtic team in the special jerseys they wore that day (in their Scottish Premiership win 2-1 against Hearts). The symbol is black and white which are the colours of the Commemoration and he had also wanted GAA teams playing on this day to wear it on their jerseys (the Munster Hurling Championship match between Limerick and Cork was also being shown that afternoon on the TV screen in the Teachers’ Club).
Two quite different celebrations of International Workers’ Day took place in Dublin on the afternoon of the appropriate date, 1st of May. One was small and of a decidely revolutionary flavour while the other, much larger, was of a more mixed nature and tending towards the reformist. In addition, a workers’ solidarity picket was mounted on a Dublin city centre eatery.
NOTHING TO LOSE BUT OUR CHAINS
The first of the celebrations was organised by theAnti-Imperialist Action Ireland organisation and took place at the James Connolly Monument in Dublin’s Beresford Place. There a statue of James Connolly stands upon a plinth, behind the the design of the Irish Citizen Army flag, based upon the constellation that in Ireland is called the Starry Plough but in the USA is known as the Big Dipper. James Connolly was a revolutionary socialist and trade union organiser, historian, journalist and songwriter who was Commander of the Dublin insurrectionary forces in the 1916 Rising. The Irish Citizen Army, possibly the first formaly-organised army for and of the workers, had been formed during the Dublin Lockout as a defence force against the attacks of the Dublin Metropolitan Police.
The ICA took part in the 1916 Rising in Dublin and after the surrender of the insurrectionary forces, 16 participants, including two of the ICA, were executed by British firing squad: Michael Mallin on 8th May and James Connoly on 12th May.
In the here and now, on their way to the Connolly Monument, a number of participants were stopped by a man in plain clothes identifying himself as a police officer, i.e a member of the Garda Special Branch. He wished to know their names, which they declined to give them.
At the Monument, both speakers for the Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland organisation were youths.
The first to speak gave his oration in Irish on behalf of Macra – Irish Socialist Republican Youth and said that they were there to celebrate socialism, trade unionism and workers oppressed throughout the world and, that although James Connolly had been murdered in Kilmainham Jail, his work was ongoing.
Stating that James Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army had gone out in 1916 to break with imperialism and found a socialist society, the youth went on to say that “Macra is a revolutionary organisation with socialism as one of our objectives and we also believe in the words of Pearse: ‘Ireland not only free but Gaelic, not only Gaelic but free.’ Free from the bankers, free from landlords, free from poverty.”
The speaker concluded in Irish and in English with the renowned sentence from the Communist Manifesto.: “Bíodh critheagla ar aicmí cheannais roimh réabhlóid Chumannach. Níl tada le cailiúint ag na Prólatáirigh ach a slabhraí. Tá saol mór le gnóthú acu. Oibrithe an tSaoil Mhóir, cuirigí le chéile!”
“Let the ruling classes tremble before a communist revolution. The Proletariat have nothing to lose but their chains, they have the whole world to gain. Workers of the world unite!”
The second speaker delivered his speech in English and linked the liberation of Ireland with the liberation of the working class and went on to praise Séamus Costello (1939-1977), which he said had embodied that aspiration. The youth praised the creation of the Irish Republican Socialist Party by Costello as well as the creation of the Irish National Liberation Army and Costello’s participation and membership in a number of democratic organisations — including his election to Bray District Council.
Condemning “the bankers and politicians” who bring deprivation to the workers, the speaker said that they try to point the finger instead at Muslims and migrants but it is not migrants who cause job losses, create homelessness etc but “the elite”. The speaker ended by saying he wished to remember all those who had given their lives for Irish freedom.
WE WANT THE EARTH
Diarmuid Breatnach was then introduced to sing Be Moderate, a song with an ironic title by James Connolly. “The Irish working class does not have a huge history in Ireland, apart from a short period in the early decades of the last century,” Breatnach said, giving as reasons the forced underdevelopment of Irish industry, the British-fostered sectarianism in the most industrialised north-east and the focus on the national struggle as a competing pole of attraction.
“The Irish abroad, however, have made a huge contribution to the workers’ movement,” Breatnach said. “And in 1889, Jim Connell from near Cill Scíre in Co. Meath, composed lyrics of The Red Flag to the air of the White Cockade, starting it on the train to his home in South London from a demonstration in central London and apparently completing it in the home of another Irish man.
The song was later adopted by the International Workers of the World, a syndicalist organisation mostly active in the USA, Breatnach said and reminded them that James Connolly joined the IWW when he migrated to the USA. “In 1907, James Connolly published a songbook, Songs of Freedom, in which he included the lyrics of Be Moderate,” Breatnach stated and went on to say that no air had been published to which the words should be sung. As a result Be Moderate has been sung to a number of airs but in London Breatnach heard it sung by an avant-garde musical composer and Marxist-Leninist, Cornelius Cardew, to the air of A Nation Once Again. In Breatnach’s opinion the lyrics fit well to this air and it also provides a chorus, which he encouraged the participants to sing.
James Connolly’s lyrics were sung by Breatnach then, competing with sounds of passing traffic on the ground and the occasional trains rumbling by on the bridge overhead, participants joining in on the chorus:
We only want the Earth,
We only want the Earth
And our demands most moderate are:
We only want the Earth!
and the last line of the last verse “We want the Earth!” echoing across Beresford Place.
TRADE UNION AND POLITICAL ORGANISATION BANNERS
Across the road, a stage and crowd barriers were being set up outside Liberty Hall, the multi-storeyed headquarters of SIPTU, the largest union in Ireland and which, by amalgamations, had grown from the Irish Transport & General Workers’ Union, originally formed early in the 20th Century by Jim Larkin, James Connolly and others (and the destruction of which had been the object of the 1913 Lockout). The stage was being prepared for speakers to address a rally which would follow a Mayday parade from Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance (a small park dedicated “to those who gave their lives for Irish freedom”).
Even the larger Mayday demonstrations in Dublin, although organised through the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, i.e with affiliation from most trade unions in the city, do not tend to be very big by comparison with other cities in many other parts of the world.
Banners of some unions mixed with those of political organisations and campaign groups, including the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and another against Irish state participation in PESCO, which is seen by many as an embryonic EU Army and undermining the Irish state’s neutrality.
Led by a lone piper, the parade made its way past crowds of onlookers down Dublin city’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street, then left along Eden Quay to Liberty Hall where they were to be addressed by speakers on the temporary stage in Beresford Place, across from the Connolly Monument.
Meanwhile, a small group had left, to form a picket line outside the Ivy Dawson Street restaurant, in solidarity with staff and in opposition to the management appropriating a portion of the tips left for staff, with more to join them there later from the Mayday parade.
A NOTE ON THE HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF INTERNATIONAL WORKERS’ DAY
The First of May has been celebrated as the international day for workers since 1892, to call for the 8-hour maximum working day, socialism and universal peace. Its inspiration was a train of events that began with a workers’ strike and demonstrations on May 1st 1886 in many parts of the USA but in Chicago ended in the State execution of four anarchists, with police and state militia massacres of workers along the way as well as with acts of workers’ resistance. The celebration and commemoration throughout the world was formally agreed at the Second Congress of the Second International Workers’ Association in Brussels in 1892 and at its Sixth Congress (Amsterdam, 1904) declared it mandatory for the proletarian organisations of all countries to stop work on that day, wherever that could be done without injury to the workers(bearing in mind violently repressive regimes).
In many states around the world now, the 1st of May is a public and bank holiday and has been so in Ireland since 1994. Its public celebration was banned under the fascist regimes in Spain and Portugal but is legal in both those states now; however it is still banned in some other states while in some areas, though not banned, may be subject to attack by police, army, state agents or by fascist elements.
The Irish Republican organisation Saoradh staged a large demonstration of its support on Dublin’s O’Connell Street on Saturday afternoon (20th April). Republican marching bands and hundreds of supporters followed the traditional ‘colour party’ flags and lines of men and some women dressed in green-brown military-style clothing, black berets and dark sunglasses.
Beginning at the Garden of Remembrance, the procession, carrying large portraits of the executed martyrs of the 1916 Rising, wound its way down the main street past thousands of viewers, many of those taking photos and filming, down to the wall of Trinity College and the Bank of Ireland building, then back up Westmoreland street and up the west side of O’Connell Street to the GPO building, the site of the HQ of the Rising in 1916, for speeches as the ceremony of the commemoration.
The parade assembled at Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance and remained there for some time without the reason being clear, until the arrival of the participants dressed in green-brown military-style clothing, black berets and dark sunglasses, which many in the waiting crowd applauded. Presumably these were meant to represent the IRA but from the physical appearance of many it was clear that their active duty days, if they had them, were behind them. Presumably too, any organisation that did have an armed section would be reluctant to offer them up to the State for arrest on a parade and their all appearing at the last minute like that was also perhaps to reduce the opportunity for Garda harassment.
However, the uniformed Garda presence was in low numbers and although the Special Branch had officers there, they did not appear to be harassing Republicans for their names and addresses, as is their usual wont.
The route of the parade had been prepared placards bearing the words “The Unfinished Revolution” and “Saoradh” with tricolour flags attached at intervals to traffic sign and street light posts, including also at least one Palestinian flag. As the colour party and people in uniform lined up with banners and a band behind them and set off down towards the city centre, people joined in behind the band, with another band bringing up the rear.
TRAGEDY AND CONDEMNATION
The crowd appeared to contain many different elements, mostly men but quite a few women, some parents with small children and some teenagers, young men and older. Included among the attendance were a number of independent Republicans and socialists and a number expressed their decision to attend as having been influenced by the tragedy of the previous Thursday and the media campaign against ‘dissident’ Republicans, along with the apprehension that the Gardaí might take advantage of that to block or harass the paraders.
A scheduled Easter commemoration by a committee including apparently members of Saoradh to be held in Derry on Easter Monday had been cancelled as a result of a tragic incident. The armed British colonial police force in the Six Counties, the PSNI, had been carrying out house searches in the Galiagh and Creggan areas of Derry, allegedly for arms, to which youth had responded with stones and petrol bombs. During that incident, a gun was fired from the direction of the youth towards the colonial police but struck Lyra McKee, a young female reporter standing near them instead. Tragically the wound was fatal.
Saoradh had issued a statement after the event expressing regret for the death and extending condolences to Lyra McKee’s family and friends but also putting the incident in the context of regular harassing raids by the PSNI on houses in ‘nationalist’ areas and the always likely result of resistance (see Links for full statement).
Possibly in reference to that tragedy, a very tall long-haired man stepped in front of a section of marchers with his hands in the air. Stewards quickly blocked him peacefully and diverted participants around him.
Past the objector and into O’Connell Street, both the east side pavement and the pedestrian middle reservation were thronged with people watching, photographing and filming. The parade passed on to O’Connell Bridge, into D’Olier Street, turned right towards the Bank of Ireland building and back up Westmoreland Street to the General Post Office, location of the HQ of the Rising in 1916, outside of which the 1916 Proclamation had been read on 24th April by Patrick Pearse with James Connolly by his side.
At the GPO, Saoradh party chairman Brian Kenna welcomed the participants.
THE SPEECHES AND CEREMONY
At the GPO, Saoradh party chairman Brian Kenna welcomed the participants. Republican Easter Rising commemorations tend to follow an established pattern, no matter which organisation is involved: the reading of the Proclamation; messages of solidarity from Republican prisoners; a speech by a representative of the organisation; the lowering of the flags to a drum roll and their raising again, in honour of the fallen; the singing of Amhrán na bhFiann, the Irish National Anthem. In the past, a statement from the IRA was also read but in recent years this have not been customary, for a number of reasons.
The usual components of the ceremony were present on Saturday outside the GPO with a few variations: a poem by a supporter read out, “James Connolly, the Irish Rebel” sung by another and “Róisín Dubh” played on the uileann pipes. The James Connolly song, with some powerful imagery and an attractive slow air, gives no indication whatsoever of the man’s revolutionary socialism and seems to incorporate him into the IRA, instead of the Irish Citizen Army which he co-founded or even of the Irish Volunteers, with which he joined forces only weeks before the Rising.
The RFB (Republican Flute Band) marching bands were from Scotland: The Wolfe Tone RFB Craigneuk and theCoatbridge Unitedmen RFB. One of the bands played “Take It Down From the Mast, Irish Traitors”, the lyrics of which deny the Tricolour to the Free Staters who waged the Civil War against the Republicans, the legitimate bearers of the flag. A participant remarked that the song was sung first against Free Staters, later against Fianna Fáil, later still against the “Stickies” and more recently against Sinn Féin.
In his speech on behalf of Saoradh, Dee Fennel from Belfastbegan by sending solidarity messages to Republican prisoners in Irish jails and to the relatives of all those who had fallen in the struggle against British imperialim. He said that the objectives set out in the 1916 Proclamation had not been achieved and referred to those participants in the struggle who had left it along the way, some to collude in upholding the two failed states of the divided nation.
Referring to his own activism, Fennel recollected how four years previously he had spoken at an Easter commemoration as an independent Republican, i.e not a member of any political party. He had spoken of the need for Republican activists to engage more with one another and also in the struggles of communities, women and trade unions. Fennel said that as a result of a discussion among Republicans, some had formed Saoradh, building on “maturity and commitment” while others “retreated to their flags” and went on to list the wide areas of struggle in which he said Saoradh activists could be found.
Fennel also referred to the activity of the IRA and said that while British imperialism remains in possession of a part of Ireland and prevents the exercise of sovereignty of the nation, there will be some form of armed resistance and that this is borne out by history.
Referring to the harassment and persecution to which Fennel said Saoradh activists were being subjected, including “tens of thousands of stop-and-searches, hundreds of house raids”, he linked that to the PSNI raids in the Creggan area of Derry earlier that week and the tragic accidental killing of Lyra McKee when “a Volunteer fired shots at PSNI forces”. Going on to say that the IRA do make mistakes from time to time, and referring to two women killed by the Provisional IRA in error years before, Fennel said that the IRA should admit and apologise for their mistakes (NB: The New IRA did later issue an apology and express condolences), though he also said that no words could compensate for the feeling of loss.
In reference to Brexit, Fennel said that the discussion is being focused on what kind of Border is to be imposed, while Republicans object to any kind of Border whatsoever. He stated that as socialists they also object to “the increasingly neo-liberal EU” and concluded with a call for solidarity with Irish Republican prisoners “in Maghaberry, Portlaoise and Mountjoy” who “are in captivity for no other reason thantheir commitment to Republicanism and a 32-county, secular socialist Republic.”
TRADITION OF THE PAST AND CLAIM ON TOMORROW
Republican organisations tend to commemorate the Easter Rising not only as a historic event but also to highlight that for which the Rising was fought has yet to be achieved. But they also do so to show that they are here, present, working for those objectives and often, to promote their organisation, to attract support.
The display involved in this Easter commemoration was impressive (despite a media claim that the numbers were only “around two hundred”), particularly in view of the inevitable bad press following the death in Derry and the system politicians’ statements on what a social media poster dubbed “The Opportunist Condemnatory Bandwagon”. It also seemed to show an organisation not much harmed overall in Ireland by a recent split over an alleged lack of internal democracy.
The campaign against continuing internment in Ireland had a visible presence in Dublin’s premier and busy shopping area, Henry Street on Saturday 6th April.
Republicans and socialists from a number of organisations — and none — supported the picket, called by Dublin Anti-Internment Committee as part of its ongoing campaign to raise awareness that internment without trial of political activists continues in Ireland, though on a much-smaller scale.
Hundreds of leaflets were distributed to shoppers and sightseers and only one complaint was received – that there wasn’t a petition to sign!
If any reminder were needed that internment is continuing in Ireland, it was provided recently with the case of former Republican prisoner Alan Lundy, who was recently jailed without charge and released some weeks later, being yet again detained and put straight into jail, again without trial or even charge.
IF YOU WANT TO HELP
If you live in Dublin and would like to help, why not join the DAIC at the next picket? These are roughly on a monthly basis. The DAIC is completely independent of any political party or organisation and organises itself in a democratic manner – however, it is a participative democracy, in that the people who attend public awareness-raising events are those who make the decisions at notified committee meetings.
If you don’t live in Dublin, you could share our posts from time to time ….
The Proclamation of Independence was signed in what was then an Irish foods and coffee shop, No.21 Henry Street, about a week before the Rising.
During the actual Rising, the street saw much firing from British troops closing in on the GPO from both directions, east and west. An advance of British soldiers from the west was halted by a Volunteers’ ambush somewhere near where this picket was.
This is an article about grammar, religion and politics. While the last two are often discussed in the same conversation, grammar is usually absent as a subject. But it has its place here.
SWEARING AND CURSING
“Don’t curse!” or “Don’t swear!” a parent or an elder might have said to us when we were children or teenagers. And particularly when we were teenagers we did exactly what we had been told not to, certainly the boys, in a mistaken sign of manhood. As a verse in the English folk song The Shoals of Herring has it, in fact:
“Well you’re up on deck, you’re a fisherman,
You can swear and show a manly bearing,
Take a turn on deck with the other fellows
As you hunt the bonny shoals of herring.”
A related admonition was against “taking the Lord’s name in vain”, which was a prohibition of blasphemy, the misuse of Yahweh’s name, taken from Exodus 20.7: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord they God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.” 1
So most of us grew up thinking that swearing and cursing were the same thing and more or less careful about which company in which to use those words – or not. But we were mistaken, cursing and swearing are not the same thing at all.
We are familiar with swearing in some formal settings, such as courts of law, for example: “I swear by almighty God that the evidence I give shall be the truth, the whole truth ….”2 and also with swearing for entry into some organisations (frequently the armed forces).
“Bejaysus”, common in Dublin, is from “by Jesus” and “bedad” is probably a disguised “by God”. The Cockney’s “Blimey” was originally “May God blind me” (e.g “if I am not telling the truth”).
The use of “Bloody” in informal society was often a swearing upon the “blood of Christ” or, strangely sometimes, the blood of “Mary”, the mother of Christ in the religions of “the Book” (Bible, Talmud or Koran). Of course “bloody” could be used pejoratively in the sense of “blood-stained”3, in which case it was not swearing but might still raise objections in some quarters of society, or descriptive of a massacre as in “Bloody Sunday”4.
In fact, swearing is to call a divine Power to witness the truth of what we are saying (in courts of law, for example) and that we intend to carry out the expectations of the organisation (e.g in the armed forces). In swearing, we utter an “oath”. Nowadays, most people who are not highly religious probably attach little importance to the form of words, though some institutions persevere with them. But in older times and not even so long ago, most people viewed an oath as a very important thing.
To break an oath of allegiance in some countries and in some periods incurred severe penalties, including death. “Oath-breaker” was an epithet that might be attached to the name of an “outlaw”, one who had broken his oath of service to a Saxon, Norman or English Lord in the Middle Ages.
The required Oath of Allegiance to the British Crown, simultaneously to the Head of the Anglican Church, prevented many Catholics for centuries from entry into many professions and from being elected as a public representative. And the British Crown was itself particularly worried for centuries by alternative “oath-bound societies” that were seeking united workers’ actions, such as agrarian defence organisations and trade unions, or equality and improvement in social conditions, for example political organisations. Laws were passed against the dispensing and swearing of such oaths.
Cursing, although it may sometimes “take the Lord’s name in vain”, is something else completely. We know in Ireland of the “Curse of Cromwell” but more frequent probably was Mallacht na bPréacháin “the Curse of the crows”, which wished upon the victim a childless land, to be inherited only by the crows. Scread mhaidne was another ill-wish to lay upon someone, that he or she may die in agony, screaming into the morning. Ná feice tú Dia sounded less terrifying but might have been more frightening for a very religious person: “May you (never) see God!”.
“Damn” and “Goddamn” are abbreviations of “May God damn …” (“you, her, it, them” etc) and to utter them in many circles in the USA is considered evidence of bad rearing. They are curses which are also oaths, in calling upon the Devine being to add power to the curse.
Typically, curses and oath-curses use the subjunctive in grammar and, although seemingly strange, this connects them to blessings and greetings. Go raibh maith agat (may you have good”) is the Irish for “thank you” and Go mba hé duit (“may it be [the same] for you”) is the reply to the Irish greetings Sé do bheatha or Móra duit.Slán abhaile (“Safe home”) is an abbreviation of Go dtéigh tú slán etc (“May you go safely home”). All of these are in the subjunctive form of speech. Vaya con Dios (“May you go with God”) is a castillian-language (Spanish) farewell wish we might come across in tales set in the south-west USA or in Latin America; that is also in the subjunctive. In fact “farewell” was “fare thee well” and probably originally, “May thee fare well”. Instead of the “Go to Hell” or “I hope you break your neck” one might hear today, centuries ago one would have heard “May you go to Hell” or “May you break your neck”.
This constant use of the subjunctive to wish well or ill upon others suggests to me that it was widely believed, at some stage in society, at least in most European societies, that one could make something happen by using a certain form of words. That form was the subjunctive; however, according to many who study language, the subjunctive is disappearing in European language and remains most in use preserved in everyday greetings and well-wishes – and the occasional curse.
It seems to me that the reason for this gradual disappearance is that we no longer believe we can make things happen by the way that we say them. We may wish them – and show the object person that we wish them – but we can’t make them happen. Nor can we expect a thing to happen with anything like a confidence that invoking a God will bring the wish, for good or ill, to fruition.
Earlier in this discussion I touched on oath-bound societies and the apprehension with which they were often regarded by those in power. Well, the Fenians were such an organisation. Formed on St. Patrick’s Day 1858, in Ireland as the Irish Republican Brotherhood and in the USA as the Irish Fenian Brotherhood, it was a popular movement until the Irish Civil War (1919-1922). Because of their revolutionary credentials and democratic program, they were accepted into the International Workingmen’s Association (the First Socialist International 1864-1889). As a true Republican organisation, they sought the separation of Church and State5 and in that, apparently incurred the wrath of Pope Pius IX (Giovanni Maria Mastai-Feretti, ruled from 1846 to his death in 1878). He excommunicated the Fenians.
Although a significant number of Fenians (particularly in the leadership) were of Protestant background (Presbyterian, Anglican, Methodist, Unitarian), most of the Fenians had been brought up in the religious faith of the majority in Ireland, Catholicism. Not only would excommunication be painful to Catholic Fenians but could also lead to their being shunned by other Catholics who might otherwise have supported them. In the end this did not occur to anything like the extent that would have pleased the Catholic Church hierarchy or the British rulers of Ireland, as Irish Catholics have historically shown an ability to set to one side the teachings of the Church when they appear in contradiction to their struggle for national self-determination.
But obviously the public excommunication did the movement some harm and hurt many Fenians who were also strongly Catholic, such as John O’Mahony, co-founder in the USA, who left the Fenians as he approached his death so that he might be administered the last rites of the Church6.
In an Irish secondary school run by the Christian Brothers, we were taught that the opposition of the Catholic Church to the Fenians (and presumably to the subsequent Republican military organisations), rather than being due to their struggle for Irish independence, was the secret organisation’s dispensing and repetition of an oath of allegiance. Perhaps we were too ill-informed (I know that I was) to bring up the question of oaths given in other circumstances, such as in giving evidence in court or in military service, circumstances with which the Church appeared to have no problem.
Had one of us done so, our Christian Brother teachers might have replied that what was wrong was “taking the Lord’s name in vain” and explained that “in vain” did not, in the English at the time of translation of Bible texts, mean only “for no important purpose” but also “for no good purpose” and that would of course have included “for an evil purpose”.
Had we questioned what the “evil purpose” might have been in the case of the Fenians, we would have put our teachers in some difficulty.
What for example in the two versions of the Fenian Oath recorded, might be considered “evil”?
“I, A.B., do solemnly swear, in the presence of Almighty God, that I will do my utmost, at every risk, while life lasts, to make Ireland an independent democratic republic; that I will yield implicit obedience, in all things not contrary to the law of God, to the commands of my superior officers; and that I shall preserve inviolable secrecy regarding all the transactions of this secret society that may be confided to me. So help me God! Amen.”
“I, A.B., in the presence of Almighty God, do solemnly swear allegiance to the Irish Republic, now virtually established; and that I will do my very utmost, at every risk, while life lasts, to defend its independence and integrity; and, finally, that I will yield implicit obedience in all things, not contrary to the laws of God, to the commands of my superior officers. So help me God! Amen.”
Would a Christian brother have admitted opposition, not only by himself but by the Catholic Church, the dogma of which he was explaining, to the establishment of an “Irish Republic”, or even to “an independent democratic republic”? And if not, what then? The use of armed force, i.e violence? Since when has the Catholic Church hierarchy been against violence in or of itself? Did it not support some side in most inter-European wars and Spanish, French and Portuguese colonial wars? In fact, did the Catholic hierarchy not itself initiate some wars and did the Vatican not have its own army, as pointed out by Fr. Sean McManus in the USA7?
If the objection were not to “a democratic Republic”, against which Pius IX was definitely set, in that he opposed the separation of Church and State, then surely the only honest reply could have been: “The Catholic Church hierarchy in Ireland made a deal first with the British occupation that if they gave Catholics equal rights and let us build up our power here, we would not support their overthrow. Since then we made a similar deal with the Irish State and its rulers. And we intend to honour that deal.”
2In the courts of many countries one is now permitted to use the words “I affirm that the evidence I shall give …” and one may sometimes be asked by the presiding judge whether one is an atheist, or agnostic – presumably as otherwise the failure to “swear by Almighty God” might be regarded as suspect.
3“Bloody Queen Mary” was an example, Mary Tudor, Mary I Queen of England (1560-1558; ruled ’53-’58), who had nearly 300 Protestants burned at the stake for “heresy”. )
4In Irish history, three are generally recognised: Dublin 1913, Dublin 1920 and Derry 1972.
5Not all organisations dubbing themselves “Republican” do in fact uphold this principle and in fact it could be said that the Irish Republican movement from the early 20th Century until its end did not generally do so, in that it rarely confronted the Church on its social policies or interference in lay matters, except when the Church condemned Republican actions. Also a great many Republican commemorations included the officiating of a member of the Catholic clergy.
6See the Irish Echo article in Links & References.