THE RIGHT TO PROTEST: DUBLIN MEETING HEARS FROM REPUBLICAN AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS

Clive Sulish

Liam Herrick, Executive Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and Mallachy Steenson, Irish Republican and practicing lawyer, on Friday 7th June addressed a Dublin meeting on The Right to Protest, convened by the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee.

 

Section of audience and panel at Right to Protest meeting (Photo source: Dublin Anti-Internment Committee)

 

 

 

CHAIR’S INTRODUCTION:

The origins of the Anti-Internment Committee and the Right to Protest

Opening the meeting and speaking for the organisers, the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee, Diarmuid Breatnach welcomed the attendance, introduced the Committee and related how it had grown out of a previous committee, to have Marion Prices released from prison, which had been partially successful (she was released pending trial but her health was destroyed). She and a number of other former Republican prisoners who had been released under license under the Good Friday Agreement, such as Martin Corey and more recently Tony Taylor, had their licenses revoked and were brought to jail without a trial or the right to challenge whatever evidence the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland claimed to have against them. Some considered this a form of internment by some and the Anti-Internment Committee had been set up in June 2013.

Breatnach emphasised that the Dublin Committee had always been and remained — attempts at takeover and accusation notwithstanding — independent of any other organisation and committed to reaching decisions in a democratic manner and conducting themselves in a principled manner towards other organisations. The Committee organises the annual Anti-Internment rally in Newry and holds more-or-less monthly pickets in different parts of Dublin, which anyone is welcome to support, he told the audience.

Chair of meeting Diarmuid Breatnach speaking at Right to Protest meeting (Photo source: Dublin Anti-Internment Committee)

Although the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee updates a list of Republican prisoners in jail and also raises issues about the human rights of Republican prisoners such as right to education and art work, appropriate medical treatment, release from solitary confinement and on occasion about miscarriages of justice such as the Craigavon Two, nine years in jail now – nevertheless the true focus of the Committee is on issues of internment.

Introducing other areas of repression by the states on both sides of the Border which the Committee considers to be types of internment, Breatnach outlined the practice of refusing bail to the accused or of making bail conditional on the individuals removing themselves from all political activity. When the accused justifiably refused to accept these conditions, they were jailed, only perhaps to be found not guilty two or three years later, as had been the case with Stephen Murney. But still having effectively served a jail sentence.

“The right to protest is everywhere under attack” stated Breatnach and declared that maintaining that right was necessary for the winning and maintaining of a wide group of basic social and political rights, from practicing one’s sexuality or religion, or indeed criticising the Church, to forming a trade union, going on strike and marching against unjust laws or measures. Breatnach bemoaned the apparent inability of a number of Republican groups to unite in defence of this right and of Socialists in uniting with them even on this most basic of levels. “We can either stand together or fall separately” he said.

Internment is used by states against political opponents, said Breatnach, recalling that the British had used it in Ireland after the 1916 Rising, the new Irish state had used it during the Civil War and again during WWII under De Valera; the British in the Six Counties between 1971 and 1975.

Internment is a means of “removing unwanted members of the public”, Breatnach said, quoting the words of anti-insurgency specialist Brigadier Frank Kitson, who had been present during the repression of the Malayan resistance and also an operational Commander in Ireland from 1970-1972, years which Breatnach reminded his listeners were those covering the introduction of internment and the massacres of civilians in Ballymurphy and Derry.

Referring to the infamous “Heavy Gang” of the Gárda Síochána whose brutal methods had extracted false confessions on the Sallins Mail Train robbery from socialist republicans in the 1970s and from the family in the Kerry Babies case, Breatnach recalled the formation of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties at that time and that it had been a campaiging organisation unafraid to challenge the State on its repressive actions. Sadly over the years the organisation had fallen away from that path, he said and he was particularly glad to welcome Liam Herrick of the ICCL to speak at the meeting and in the hope that the organisation was returning to its roots.

LIAM HERRICK, ICCL: The Right to Protest and the work of the ICCL.

Liam Herrick, Executive Officer of the ICCL, speaking

After the applause, Liam Herrick thanked the Committee for having invited him to speak. He wished to list some of the efforts in which the Irish Council of Liberties was engaged and also to hear from the audience some of the problems they were encountering.

Briefly covering the early years of his organisation, Herrick related that it had been formed as a response to police repression, mostly of Republicans but also of some Socialists, and in particular due to the activities of the Gárda unit known as the “Heavy Gang”, by academics, activists and lawyers. It had taken up early cases of the ill-treatment of detainees, the use of the Offences Against the State Act, repression of protesters of the Ronald Reagan visit including the case of Petra Breatnach in 1984 and Water protests in the mid-1990s, also in the street-traders’ protests in which Tony Gregory was prominent.

The issue of the right to protest and State repression had come up again a number of times including in 2002 against the Anti-War Movement with the use of the OAS Act and in particular with the Reclaim the Streets protest in 2002, in which video recording of police actions had revealed the extent of police brutality without any arrests. Similar problems had been encountered by protesters at the 2004 EU Council meeting in Dublin, and water canons had even been imported by the State from the UK and widescale repression and had come up again at the Corrib Shell protests.

The ICCL had in 2014 published “Know Your Rights” booklet. And had called for a root and branch review of procedures for dealing with protests, noting that there existed a major gap in rights and policing process and has published a publication by the title of “Take Back the Streets” and has made submissions to the EU and the UN on how states should not just tolerate but manage and create conditions to facilitate the right to protest. The ICCL is part of a network which includes the ACLU in the US.

“If Notifications to the authorities are required should be minimal and reasonable”, Herrick said and gave the contrary example of African Jews who wished to protest against Israeli measures but were charged a 25,000 dollars as a cost of the application for permission.

Police should have a chain of command to deal with protests and be trained not only in weapons and control movements as they are at present but also in de-escalation, in engagement with protesters. Their internal Garda policies should be available to public access but are not.

Herrick said journalists should be facilitated in having access and only just employees of big media organisations but alternative media and individual bloggers whose coverage is often essential to understanding the incidents at an event (in the Reclaim the Streets event such sources were the only source on the Garda violence). There should be restrictions on the use of force as is law and police in Northern Ireland, whatever people might think about practice on the ground, Liam Herrick said. The PSNI every 6 months have to submit a report to the Policing Board which details incidents o the use of force. In the Irish state Gárdaí don’t have to make any report on the use of force which is remarkable in the European context – the use of pepper-spray would seem to be increasing here but no records are available..

Surveillance is an issue and of course can intimidate and have “a chilling effect on protest”, Herrick said. In England face recognition technology is being used which apart from questions about its accuracy, is intrusive. Also trapping of mobile phone activity in the vicinity of a protest. Data collection is an issue and there should be no database on protesters maintained; covert agents have been used and in some cases become personally involved with those they were surveilling – a recording procedure is needed. There needs to be an independent complaint process as the existing process in Ireland has been shown to be inadequate.

At the moment the ICCL is involved in discussions on Gárda reform and the following Friday would be producing a document on Human Rights Policing which people are welcome to read. The international perception is that the law and policy of the PSNI is good, without making any comment on their practice on the ground. The Gardaí should publish a report on their handling of protests every year including statistics (despite the problems on drink-driving statistics) on arrests and the use of non-lethal weapons.

The Gardaí in Ireland have a national security function and there needs to be a discussion on this – in many other countries a separate body is responsible for this. But no legal body is overseeing the operation of the Gardaí on national security or the powers they exercise.

Liam Herrick concluded to applause and Breatnach told the audience that questions could be asked of him and of the next speaker after the conclusion of the latter, then introducing Mallachy Steenson to welcoming applause.

MALLACHY STEENSON: Republicans and the Right to Protest

Mallachy Steenson speaking Section of audience and panel at Right to Protest meeting (Photo source: Dublin Anti-Internment Committee)

Mallachy quoted the right to protest under Article 41 of the Constitution of the State under which document however Republicans would not support.

Moving on to suppression of protests Steenson referred to the most frequently used being the Public Order Act, justification which depends on the subjective view of a cop and is therefore virtually unchallengeable. The result is usually a fine but the use of the Offences Against the State Act is much more serious. In the 1950s there were many arrests of Republicans under the section which prohibits a demonstration within a certain distance of the Dáil and Section 30 was widely used.

Steenson pointed out that almost any gathering of Republicans consitutes some kind of protest due to the basic opposition to the State of Republicans. Funerals are usually protests too, partly in solidarity with the family, partly with movement but also of making a stand and, in the case of the ten dead 1981 Hunger Strikers, in solidarity with their Five Demands.

Steenson believes that most of the protests that occur in the state will be allowed because the they don’t threaten the state from the “trendy liberal side”. For example the housing protests including activist occupations are permitted but when a house was occupied in Charlemont Street and in preparation for moving in a family three years earlier, armed police removed the occupiers.

“The State takes a different view of Republicans” Steenson declared. Referring to the 2016 Sinn Féin Easter 1916 commemorations, Steenson wondered whether they remember their history because the 76th anniversary of the Rising commemoration (1992) was banned and people on the platform arrested. The 66th anniversary commemoration had been beaten off the street in Dublin and people arrested for “membership”, including his own father and others.

“What we have is mostly controlled dissent”, Steenson said. “People remember the Birmingham Six” but are not aware that their campaigners here had their homes raided by police, their jobs visited by the Special Branch, threatened and often lost their jobs.

“What has happened in Ireland is a privatisation of dissent,” Steenson said. “They are funded by the State and he who pays the piper calls the tune.”

The only ones who could really carry out a successful protest in Ireland were the farmers who here, as in France, had no hesitation to block roads and motorways and dump slurry at the Dáil, Steenson declared. The only other really effective protest that hurts the State is the withdrawal of labour as in a general strike – which should have happened when the banks were bailed out — but the trade union movement in Ireland works hand in glove with the State.

“Republicans are well-used to surveillance” Steenson went on to say with a reference to “the new MI5 Garda Commissioner” who declared upon coming into office that the biggest threat to the State is the armed ‘dissident’ Republicans, which Steenson commented were no real threat to anyone except themselves.

“The State is built on the defeat of the Republic,” said Steenson and therefore naturally Republicans are its enemy. Referring to the water protests and their suggested victory, Steenson opined that the success was only due to Fianna Fáil changing sides and he believed that the USC (Universal Social Charge) should be the main object of protest which takes much more out of people’s pockets.

In 1972 the British Embassy in Dublin had been burned in protest at the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry. Steenson declared that too was managed by the State, having a national Day of Mourning, allowing people to blow off their anger at the sacrifice of a building and listed other protests he believed had been managed or controlled by the State, including the medical cards for the elderly.

People should be able to go to protest without asking the State, Mallachy believed and asked what is a valid protest, referring to gathering protest against the expected visit of Trump while that of Clinton in Dublin passed quietly by without protest. “What is it about Trump?” asked Steenson. “If it’s about killing people, Clinton killed many more. If it’s about treatment of women, well we all know Clinton’s record on that.”

The real problem impacting on most working people is drugs, Steenson said, and the gangs involved in it. Families Against Drugs had been a big campaign but some of the activists were in it to get funding. “People should separate their political activism and their job,” Steenson declared. “We need to move away from having paid groups organise protests”, Mallachy said. “Most protests now are during the week,” he added, “because activists don’t want to interfere with their weekends.”

“We need to look at what is an issue and what is effective”, he said and talked about empty houses and the way housing protesters in the 1960s and ’70s not only occupied them but moved homeless families into them.

“During WWII we didn’t intern Germans or English here”, Steenson commented, “we interned Republicans.”

“Protests will be allowed as long as they don’t threaten the State”, Steenson said, coming to a conclusion and the only ones organising protests that threaten the State are Republicans. He posed the question whether democracy is any use to working people, because it had not brought them much.complained too about police being masked and said that in a normal society you would not have that, nor armed police everyday on the streets. He commented also on the degree of video surveillance used by the State which could track people from leaving the door of the building all the way home.

“Gardaí are there to protect the State, not to protect the citizen, whatever combination of political parties are in government,” he told his audience. “To them and to the State, Republicans are the enemy. That’s just the way it is.”

CONTRIBUTIONS AND QUESTIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE

After the applause following Steenson’s talk, Breatnach opened up the meeting to contribution or questions from the audience, asking them to keep them brief and telling them he was going to take questions in groups and the speakers could choose to which to reply.

Side view of section of the audience (Photo source: Dublin Anti-Internment Committee)

An audience members spoke about the level of repression from Lurgan RUC/PSNI and how eight people had been charged and their bail conditions were not to associate with one another but two of them live near one another.

A contribution declared that Drew Harris being appointed as Garda Commissioner was equivalent to a railroad to jail and related a case of an elderly woman being persecuted in Rossport.

Another directed a question specifically at Liam Herricks about treatment of people in some of the rural courts where protesters were being very badly treated.

Gardaí attacking protesters

An Ireland Palestine Solidarity Committee activist said that usually they don’t get much trouble from the Gárdaí but more often from the private sectors, from private security personnel when they protest at a business as part of the solidarity campaign. And the Bank of Ireland had closed their account, which caused the organisation considerable difficulty. He wondered whether this was the State’s influence under pressure from the Israelis or others, or instead the banking company under pressure from the same sources or from financial sources. Or whether it was part of the general “de-risking” measures people talked about. The Cuba support group had suffered a similar problem.

Relating his contribution to issues of surveillance, one person described a car journey from an event for about two hours across Dublin, after which he stopped at a fast food takeaway facility. He had felt followed earlier on and when the Garda came in behind him in the takeaway with the usual harassment, he confronted the officer and asked him how had followed him all that way. The Gárda pointed to cameras above on street poles and said: “We don’t have to follow you, they do.”

Another person related how “membership of an illegal organisation” is being frequently used to jail Republicans under the OAS on the word, without the need to display any proof, of a Gárda senior officer.

Garda detaining woman protester in Dunne’s Stores Anti-Apartheid strike
(Photo source: Internet)

He thought he had heard of one case where it had been used against a gang member and wanted to know were there any others that the speakers knew of?

Neither had heard of any and Mallachy commented that next year the OAS will be 40 years old. Liam Herrick referred to a piece of research carried out by Nuala Ní Fhaoláin at the UN.

A Polish and a Catalan separately expressed their solidarity with Irish people struggling against repression, briefly alluding to their own struggles and the Polish person mentioning the recent arrest and jailing of a comrade of his in Turkey.

Queens University Belfast students sit-down protest when prevented from marching, 1968.

As there were no further questions or contributions, Breatnach thanked people for their attendance, the speakers for the talks and audience members for their contribution and asked for contribution towards the rent of the room. “This is not the beginning of a broad campaign to defend human rights or if it leads to it, it will not by our Committee leading it,” said Breatnach, adding that no doubt they would be happy to contribute to such a campaign. Urging people present to keep in touch with internment issues through the End Internment Facebook page he stressed once again the need to unite across ideological divisions against State repression.

End.

POSTSCRIPT:

     A number of public meetings in Dublin about similar issues followed the one above in quick succession, no doubt coincidentally:

A meeting as part of the Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday 15th September on “State Violence and Cover-ups: Community Responses” heard from a speaker on police infiltration of campaigning groups; from Anne Cadwaller of the Pat Finucane Centre (also author of the “Lethal Allies” exposure) about colonial police and British Army collusion with Loyalist murder gangs; and from Hilary Darcy about what might be considered legitimate reforms to be pursued by revolutionaries.

A public meeting in Abolish the Special Criminal Courts campaign was held on 17th September and heard from international and Irish speakers.

The Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied group held a public meeting on 19th September, raising issues pertaining to the Ballymurphy and Derry Massacres, the Miami Showband Massacre and the Stardust Fire (report: https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2018/09/24/justice-delayed/ )

Masked Police, Police with machine guns.

In addition five days after the Right to Protest meeting, masked Gardaí brandishing batons and pepper-spray cannisters assisted a masked “security team” in evicting housing campaigners carrying out a symbolic occupation of an empty building, drawing protest statements from Liam Herrick on behalf of the ICCL to be followed, most unusually, by Colm O’Gorman on behalf of Amnesty International. Five or six housing protesters were detained and at least one was injured..

A few days after that, Gardaí turned up with machine guns and a battering ram to a house where a couple were in dispute with their landlord, leaving when supporters of the couple arrived.

LINK:

Dublin Anti-Internment Committee: https://www.facebook.com/End-Internment-581232915354743/

Masked Gardaí and masked “security guards” at eviction of peaceful housing protesters soon after the Right to Protest meeting.
(Photo source: Irish Times)

1963 Alabama, 17-year-old black civil rights protester attacked by police and police dog. (Photo source: Internet)

1972, Derry, part of Bloody Sunday Massacre (Photo source: Internet)

Lone man confronting Chines Army tanks on their way to suppress protest in Tienamen Square, 1989

Massed Marikana Strikers at Lonmin Mine, South Africa, 2012– 40 were shot dead by police. (Photo source: Internet)

 

 

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EAST WALL REMEMBERS ANTI-FASCIST BRIGADISTA JACK NALTY

Clive Sulish

On the 80th Anniversary of his death in the Anti-Fascist War in ‘Spain’, the East Wall History Group organised a remembrance of a local man from that dockland Irish area who was the last Irishman to die fighting in the war against Franco and Spanish Fascism. The event was attended by relatives of that Irish antifascist fighter and of another, by a cross-section of Left and Irish Republicans, including historians and by a number of elected representatives from the Dublin City Council and the Dáil (Irish Parliament).

Crowd assembling outside school before event. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Jack Nalty was the last Irish and one of the last International Brigaders to fight and die in that war. The rest of the Brigaders, those not held as prisoners by Franco’s forces, were withdrawn soon afterwards as the indigenous anti-fascist forces fought on, losing against the Spanish military coupists with their German Nazi and Italian fascist allies.

Those commemorating Jack Nalty met at the St. Joseph’s Co-Educational School on the East Wall Road at 1pm on Sunday (23rd September) and included a cross-section of members of organisations and independent activists, socialists, republicans, communists and anarchists and other members of the local community. At the front entrance of the School a number of relatives of Jack Nalty held a banner along with a son of an Irish International Brigader and the crowd was addressed by Joe Mooney, of the East Wall History Group.

Joe Mooney speaking at start of event, relatives of International Brigaders beside him holding the banner in the colours of the Spanish Republic (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Mooney told the crowd that John Nalty came to the area at the age of six from Galway and on 31st August 1908 entered the East Wall National School on the Wharf Road. Just over thirty years later, 23rd September 1938, he would die on a Spanish battlefield, shot down in a hail of fascist bullets as he engaged in one last heroic act.

A member of the IRA during the War of Independence, Jack was a Republican, Socialist and trade unionist”, Mooney said, “representing 600 oil workers in Dublin Port. But in 1936 when the Spanish Civil War — or Anti-Fascist War as it should more accurately be called1 – began, he volunteered for the International Brigades to join the fight against European fascism. He was badly wounded and came back to Ireland, but would again go into action and was killed at the Battle of the Ebro. Having being among the first Irish volunteers to travel to Spain, he would die on their last day as they were preparing to withdraw from combat.

Nalty’s unit had been called to retreat when it was realisted that two machine-gunners had been left behind and he went back to collect them. On their retreat they were fired at and Jack Nalty was killed.

Section of crowd lined up in front of house where Jack Nalty had lived (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Mooney also asked those present to remember not only Jack Nalty but the ‘comradeship of heroes’ from Dublin’s Docklands and North Inner City – Dinny Coady, Tommy Wood and others.

The crowd then set off in a march led by a piper to East Road to unveil a memorial plaque. Across the road from Jack Nalty’s former house, the crowd paused to hear Diarmuid Breatnach sing a few verses of Christy Moore’s tribute to the Irish “Brigadistas”: “Viva La Quinze Brigada”.2

UNVEILING THE PLAQUE

Joe Mooney unveiling the plaque not far from Jack Nalty’s former house (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The plaque (text difficult to read in photograph)
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

The plaque could not be attached to Jack Nalty’s house and was affixed a little further down the road. Joe Mooney siad a few words there and introduced James Nugent who gave a speech he had prepared and the plaque was unveiled. Nugent concluded by saying that “the history of the past helps us to understand the present and to create the future.”

Kate Nugent read a message from the daughters of Steve Nugent (sadly died 2017) who researched the story of his uncle Jack and Mary Murphy read a short post from Vicky Booth (granddaughter of Syd Booth, who was with Jack when he died).

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Piper plays lament by plaque
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Harry Owens gave a short tribute speech on behalf of Friends of the International Brigades and Manus O’Riordan, son of Irish communist and International Brigade Volunteer, sang the chorus of Amhrán na bhFiann (“The Soldiers’ Song”, Irish national anthem) and the Internationale.

Section of crowd a location of the plaque (Photo: D.Breatnach)

At the unveiling ceremony (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Also at the unveiling ceremony
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Joe Mooney acknowledged the presence of elected representatives Mary Lou McDonald, Sean Crowe and Cieran Perry and asked people to march to the nearby Sean O’Casey Centre to see the art exhibition and see two short films.

 

Marching from the plaque site, heading for the SO’C Centre
(Photo: D.Breatnach)(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Section of the attendance relaxing at the Sean O’Casey Centre between the plaque event and the films to be shown, also examining the art exhibition [see photos at end of post]

Back at the Sean O’Casey Community Centre, two short films were shown. One was a school project film in which a descendant of Jack Nalty interviews the latter’s nephew about his famous uncle. The second was dramatic film in which a Spanish trumpet player joins the fight against the fascist military uprising by Franco and other generals and features also actors playing two Irish International Brigaders, O’Connor and Charlie Donnelly3. When the former trumpet player is shot he sees into the future ….

Eddie O’Neill talked about the pulling out of the International Brigades in October 1938 in a bid to have the “non-interventionist” Western democracies put pressure on Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy to have them withdraw too, which did not happen. They marched through Barcelona on 17th October and were addressed in an emotional rally by La Pasionara4 and Eddie asked Nerea Fernández Cordero to read an English translation.

Nerea on stage just after reading translation of La Pasionara’s farewell to the Brigaders
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Eddie O’Neill at the SO’C Centre with concluding speech: “We can’t afford to forget.”
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Nerea told the audience that she is from Extremadura (a province of the Spanish state next to the Border with Portugal) and her grandfather, Antonio Fernández had fought against Franco, been captured, escaped to the mountains but was in time recaptured. Upon his release he had married Nerea’s grandmother and lived a peaceful life. Nerea said that she was proud of her grandfather and those who fought Franco and that “ we know La Pasionara’s speech in Spanish by memory.”

Reading of translation of La Pasionara’s speech to English from Youtube:

At the event the newly published pamphlet “In Pursuit of an Ideal – from East Wall to the Ebroabout Jack Nalty was made available for the first time and copies are available from the organisers.

Eddie O’Neill recalled being in the Spanish state with a group from Friends of the International Brigades to commemorate those who fought against Franco during that war and afterwards searching for an appropriate pub in which to socialise. They found a pub with a Guinness sign and went there which however turned out to be one of the most fascist pubs in the area but undeterred, they continued to celebrate the memory of the antifascist fighters there. A lone man in suit and tie asked people as they passed him to use the toilet why they were commemorating people who had died so long ago but when they explained he said he could not understand English.

We can’t afford to forget,” O’Neill told his audience, “least of all when the forces of fascism are gathering again.”

To conclude the event O’Neill called on Diarmuid Breatnach who sang the whole of Christy Moore’s “Viva La Quinze Brigada”, calling on the audience to join him in the chorus, remembering those who fought and gave their lives in the struggle against fascism.

Eddie O’Neill close at right of photo at unveiling ceremony
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

AN ANNUAL EVENT?

The organisers are reputedly considering making this an annual event – it is to be hoped that they do so.

Another section of the crowd at the plaque unveiling.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Also at the plaque unveiling ceremony
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

POSTCRIPT: JACK NALTY – ATHLETE COMPETING FOR IRELAND

In publicity prior to the event, the East Wall History group posted the following:
“In addition to his political and trade union activity, Jack Nalty was also a busy athlete, a regular competitor and medal winner with the Dublin Harriers. In 1931 he represented his country at the International Cross Country Championship, held at Baldoyle. Fellow competitor Tim Smyth became the first Irishman to win this competition.

(The full Irish Group for the event held on 22nd March 1931 is listed as: Frank Mills, J. Behan, John Nalty, J.C. McIntyre, John Timmins, T. King, T. O’Reilly, Thomas Kinsella, Tim Smythe).

This British Pathe footage shows the runners in action. Somewhere in the group is John (Jack) Nalty, East Wall resident, Republican and hero of the International Brigades. (The Pathe footage is viewable on post on the East Wall History Group event — CS)

Ironically, the same year as the competition the future leader of Irish Fascism, General Eoin O’Duffy had become the President of the National Athletic and Cycling Association (NACA) , and apparently was an admirer of Jack Nalty as an athlete!”

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOOTNOTES

 

1Basques in the provinces of Bizkaia, Guipuzkoa and Alava say it was not a civil war there, i.e between different sections of Basque society — the fascist forces came from outside.  In the fourth southern Basque province of Nafarroa, where the Carlists took control, they wiped out around 2,000 antifascists but it was hardly a war. The Catalans also say that the fascist forces invaded them and that it was not a civil war but an antifascist one. In some other places in the Spanish state many also say that the presence of Nazi German and Fascist Italian military in such numbers invalidated the term “civil war”.

2Also known as “Viva La Quinta Brigada”, which is however also the title of a different song from the Anti-Fascist War. Both titles are correct for this song since the Irish were in the Fifth of the International Brigades but when added to the ten indigenous Brigades (Spanish, Basque, Catalan etc), that became the Fifteenth. Wikipedia quotes authors to report an estimate that “during the entire war, between 32,000 and 35,000 members served in the International Brigades, including 15,000 who died in combat; however, there were never more than 20,000 brigade members present on the front line at one time.”

3Charlie Donnelly was a poet and member of the Republican Congress. He went to Spain to fight against Franco, where he died in February of 1937 at the Battle of Jarama. He is also one of those 19 names mentioned in Christy Moore’s song (“Viva La Quinta Brigada” or “Viva La Quinze Brigada”).

4Isidora Dolores Ibárruri Gómez (9 December 1895 – 12 November 1989), born and brought up in the Basque Country to a Basque mother and Spanish father, founder-member of the Spanish Communist Party and known for her political writing and speeches. She wrote an article when quite young under the pen-name “La Pasionara” (the Passion Flower) and was known by that nickname throughout her life.

APPROPRIATE MEMORIAL FOR MAGDALENE LAUNDRIES VICTIMS: CAMPAIGN WINS IMPORTANT BATTLE IN DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL

Diarmuid Breatnach

Dublin City Councillors at their meeting on Thursday (13th September) voted by huge majority not to sell the former Magdalene Laundry building in Seán McDermott Street in the city centre. Deputy City Manager Brendan Kenny had earlier announced the possibility of the Council selling the building at an expected price of €14.5 million to a Japanese company that planned and hotel and supermarket on the site.

A campaign group called Separate Church & State had lobbied for the building to become a memorial to the suffering of the inmates of the Magdalene Laundries. The group called people to support an event outside City Hall to coincide with a motion being put forward to prevent the sale of the building.  A range of people attended, seeming mostly Left social and political activists independent of any party and a sprinkling of People Before Profit activists.

The motion was propose by Gary Gannon, a Councilor of a very small political party (with only one member on the Council), the Social Democrats. However the motion was supported by the overwhelming majority of a Independent councillors (i.e of no party) and those belonging to a number of other parties and was passed with 37 voting in favour, eight against and two abstentions.

Campaigners and supporters in front of Dublin City Hall from across the street
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

The successful motion called on the Council not to sell the building and land and that instead those who suffered abuse there should be commemorated with a memorial. Other than preventing the sale, exactly how the memorialising might be put into effect remains to be outlined and agreed. There is talk of the State taking it over but whether by donation of the Council or sale has not been clarified. There are very few memorials to the Magdalene Laundry victims and all but one of them are small

The Sean McDermott building appears to have been the last of the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland and was closed in 1996. It is also the last of those buildings in the possession of Dublin City Council.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

The significance of the victory is greater than that of elected representatives versus unelected City Managers, the former being more responsive to public pressure than to the demands of high-ranking officials who seem happy to hand over much of the city centre to property speculators, shopping centres, hotels and large student accommodation complexes.

The terms in which the issue was raised are an attack on the legacy of the Catholic Church’s grip on secular society and its relationship with the State.  The campaigners clearly see the Council vote as a victory, though a moral one, against that legacy.  And they are planning to press ahead with the offensive in the terms indicated by the title of their campaign, indicating further targets such as the national health and education services, along with legislation to follow on the national referendum’s rejection of Amendment 8 of the Constitution outlawing abortion.

The Magdalene Laundries – some brief background

       The Magdalene Laundries were a major institution of the Irish Catholic Church from the 18th to the late 20th Century. There were some Protestant parallels too in the Six Counties (“Northern Ireland”) run by the Anglican and Presbyterian churches but the vast majority of the Irish population were of the Catholic faith. The Laundries took in and accommodated women who were considered “fallen women” which at first meant sex workers but later included unmarried women who had a child or children or even women whose behaviour was considered immoral or flirtatious (or even whose beauty attracted male attention) and they were put to work in the laundries for no pay. Ostensibly at first a charitable initiative, their title drew on the New Testament story of Mary Magdalene who, from being a “morally loose” woman, after meeting him became one of the most ardent supporters of Testament’s Jesus.

But if the name was associated with the alleged mercy and lack of judgementalism of the Christ, it also implied moral sin and judgement. In the extremely conservative Catholic Church that it became after the Great Hunger, the main element was likely to be punishment and, when allied to an also socially reactionary political class, the Laundries became an institution of social control of the Catholic Church in Ireland and of the new Irish State.

The Magdalene laundries soon became known to their inmates as places of hard work and ill-treatment, mostly of a psychological nature but also physical. If women left them without permission, they were pursued by the police and brought back. Continuous escapes could lead to jail sentences.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

During their time in operation an estimated 30,000 Irish women were kept in these institutions in Ireland, approximately 11,000 after the State was created in 1922.

The horrors of these “charitable institutions” began to be revealed to the public during the last decade of the 20th Century, notably in 1993 after a mass grave of 155 corpses was uncovered in the north Dublin convent grounds which housed one of the laundries and the last Laundry was finally closed down in 1996. The Church never accepted any financial responsibility for reparations.

The Irish State set aside a sum of up to €58 million (about half of which has been paid out – see Links) but the religious institutes concerned, the Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd and Sisters of Charity refused demands from the Irish Government, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Committee against Torture, along with other groups in Irish society, to contribute to the compensation fund for the the surviving victims, an estimated 600 of whom were still alive in March 2014 (see Wikipedia in Links).

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of the Irish State apologised publicly and emotionally in the Dáil (Parliament) in February 2013 but the State never accepted any legal responsibility, its representatives saying that they did not control the Church. When they were reminded that the victims had washed not only clothes and vestments of priests and nuns but had also done laundry service for such state institutions as Aer Lingus, the Irish Army, the Gárdai, the State’s representatives declared that the Laundries were like any other contractor in that regard and that the State could could not accept responsibility for how contractors treated their “employees”. But it is known that State courts sent a number of women to the Magdalene Laundries. And it was the State that allowed the Catholic Church to dominate social care, health care and education, areas which are usually considered the responsibility of the State.

The general story of the Laundries is fairly well-known in Ireland now through media coverage and the testimonies of victims and even abroad in some countries through the 1992 Peter Mullan film Magdalene Sisters (see Links) and a number of documentaries for TV. Mary Coughlan sang a fierce attack on them too the same year as the film, composed by J.Mulhern (see Links for a Youtube video).

View of the protesters outside the meeting (some were inside) looking eastward.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

There are very few monuments to the suffering of the victims of the Magdalene Laundries and they are all of a small size except the statue in Ennis which aroused some local controversy.

The monument at Forster Street, Ennis, Co. Clare, dedicated to the Magdalen women and a subject of some controversy.
(Photo: Mike Shaughnessy)

Despite the duration of their existence and numbers involved and the international coverage, the Pope claimed when tackled by some survivors on his recent visit to Dublin that he had no knowledge of the existence of the institutions.

 

Sale of Council buildings and land – the legal position and some background

Due to a legislative change some years ago, Dublin Council Executives such as the City Manager and Senior Planning Officer can make major decisions without consulting elected Councillors and even against their expressed wishes. In this way, for example, the planning permission for the Shopping Centre Plan over the Moore Street Battleground and Market quarter was firstly agreed and secondly, even after the High Court judgement that it is a national monument, was renewed in 2016 by the Chief Planning officer of the time, Jim Keogan.

Many feel and have felt since such decisions that this is an unhealthy state of affairs, with no democratic controls and leaving key officials open to suspicion of bribery from developers influencing their decisions.

Fortunately however when it comes to the disposal of Council assets, the Councillors must agree by majority. This prevented the “land swap” proposed in 2014 by Joe O’Reilly of buildings in Moore Street, which if successful would have enabled his company to demolish half the 1916 Terrace: responding to campaigners and interested elected Councillors, the Council voted the proposal down against senior officials’ recommendations in November of that year.

Links:

Separate Church & State campaign group: https://www.facebook.com/separatechurchandstate/

Short article on the Dublin Council lobby and vote in Look Left: https://www.lookleftonline.org/2018/09/dcc-votes-not-to-sell-off-ex-magdalene-laundry-site/

Closing of the Magdalene Laundry on Sean McDermott Street: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/last-days-of-a-laundry-1.89388

Proposed sale of the Sean McDermott Street building: http://www.thejournal.ie/sean-mcdermott-magdalene-laundry-3941031-Apr2018/

State compensation package: https://www.rte.ie/news/2013/0626/458868-magdalene-report/ and https://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/flanagan-257m-paid-out-to-682-magdalene-laundry-survivors-462711.html

The Magdalene Laundries on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magdalene_Laundries_in_Ireland

The Pope “had no knowledge”: https://www.buzz.ie/latest/pope-magdalene-laundries-297205

Film The Magdalene Sisters, Peter Mullan (1992): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Magdalene_Sisters

Song Magdalene Laundry by Mulhern and sung by Mary Coughlan (Sentimental Killer album (1992)): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHWsLYtxzz0

 

(Photo: G.Guilfoyle)

Irish TV (RTÉ) cameraman filming the protest (Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

Section of protest (Photo: D.Breatnach)

THANK YOU YOUR HOLINESS

YOUR HOLINESS,

Thank you so much for visiting our island (well, the independent part). It was a wonderful experience and its effect upon us, the faithful, was at one and the same time energising and calming. And for sure we needed that, needed it so badly.

These past few years have seen this state sinking into greater and greater godliness, between different lifestyles on the one hand and the terrible revelations of what went on in some of the religious charitable institutions on the other.

Pope Francis
(Photo sourced: Internet)

Years ago we lost the battle on condoms and the Pill but our Church survived that. And to be honest, if some of the priesthood were going to engage in immorality then it would have been better if they had indeed used condoms, God help me for saying that – but certainly in the case of a certain Galway bishop it would have been useful …. for the Greater Good, of course.

But then legal divorce, and we survived that too. It seemed hardly had we managed to coexist with those travesties than we had marriage between homosexuals legislation, now flaunting their sinful ways not only publicly – but legally married! And now, worst of all by far, abortion legalised! Well, up to three months of pregnancy but we all know, the faithful and the sinful, that once that door is wedged open ….!

Of course the abuse in the institutions run by religious orders was shocking, both in its content and extent. But people want to throw the baby out with the dirty bathwater! Or the dirty laundry water, perhaps. And knowing what people are like and the enemies the Church had and has, of course it was necessary to cover it up. The first duty of any institution is to survive and therefore to protect itself. Why do people find that so hard to understand? Have we not seen political parties and governments doing the same for years? Why do people find it so strange?

So anyway, we badly needed some comforting, some reassurance and it was wonderful that in our hour of need, Your Holiness came. How wonderful to see the gold-and-white Papal Colours fluttering on flagpoles, on bunting festooned! To see so many youngsters bussed in to Dublin from other parts of Ireland, their faces aglow with the excitement (and not just because of a day out in other adolescent company, or in the excitement of youth overnight “camps”, as the cynics have commented). So what if they were somewhat incoherent or illogical when interviewed about their reasons for attendance! The brilliance of the Holy See is enough to bring incoherence to anyone!

And I understand, Your Holiness, understand perfectly why it was necessary to say Your Holiness had not known about the Magdalene Laundries. How could the mass of ordinary people be expected to understand the balancing act of the Holy See, between Perfect Good and Necessary Evil? To balance things in favour of the Greater Good? What a field day the media vultures would have had if Your Holiness had tried to explain the intricacies to them! And the unbelieving hyenas too would have gathered to the feast on our dying bodies, to crunch the bones of our faith.

Sure where else would the Irish priests, bishops and nuns have had their laundry done? Not to mention Áras an Uachtaráin, Guinness, Clery’s, the Gaity Theatre, Dr. Steevens’ Hospital, the Bank of Ireland, the Departments of Defence, Agriculture and Fisheries, CIÉ, Clontarf Golf Club and several leading hotels! In the end there was altogether too much dirty laundry washed in public really.

A Magdalene Laundry (Photo sourced: Internet)

Considering that the story involved the whole Irish church and was publicly recorded going as far as the US, and a film about it went right around the world, I thought it was very brave of Your Holiness to deny all knowledge. Only by the grace of God surely could Your Holiness have kept a straight face. I could not have managed it for a second myself but sure I am but a humble sinner.

Of course Your Holiness’ visit did not take place in the same society as we had in 1979, when your predecessor-but-one His Holiness John Paul the 2nd visited Ireland. One in ten boys born in 1980 were named John Paul in his honour. All the same, we can look forward to a crop of baby boys named Francis this year and next, though it’s unlikely to be anything like one in ten this time. We’d be lucky to reach one in thirty, if you’ll forgive my gloominess.

Still, even Francis — and we’ve had a crop of them over the years anyway, named after the two Saints of that name and maybe even after Frank Sinatra or – God help us – Frank Zappa! Yes, believe it or not, some parents were capable of doing that in the Sixties, Seventies and even the Eighties.

I was going to say, even Francis would be a mile more likely than your Holiness’ original names. I don’t imagine that many male Irish children born this year will be baptised “Jorge Mario”. I shudder to think of the damage done to that first name in Ireland. Horhay, would be the best attempt, I’d guess but for sure there would be Horjays, Georgeays and Georgies. Your Holiness doubts this? Your Holiness has yet to hear mothers calling a “Sor-tchah” in for their tea, instead of the actual centuries-old Irish name, “Sorcha”. Or to hear of a male or female child being proudly introduced as “Sheersheh” instead of “Saoirse”, which means “freedom” — but not the freedom to mangle Irish words, God help us!

Without wishing to be in the least insulting to Your Holiness but with a name like Mario ….. well, not many Irish or migrants are going to want to sound as though their children are Italian – except of course in the Irish-Italian community. Then also, how many would want their child’s name to remind people of a popular 1980s video game, perhaps imagining all kinds of things about the parents, what they were doing when the mother conceived, etc …. And Princess Toadstool! I ask you! Pagan erotic symbolism for sure!

Forgive me, Holy Father, I have digressed.

Anyway, I hope the visit did not tire Your Holiness out too much and hope the ten thousand or so oppositional marchers did not even impinge on Your Holiness’ consciousness. To us however that showing was worrying – a couple of decades ago, only a score would have dared and they would not even have been allowed on the street!

There are signs that soon we will face a battle over the Church’s control of the primary and secondary educational institutions in Ireland. The Godless have the bit between their teeth now and it seems they will shy at no obstacle. Sorry, that’s a riding metaphor; does Your Holiness ride?

It seems we are in danger of losing the gain for which the Holy Mother Church has been striving since the mid-1800s, and which even that Protestant fornicator Parnell championed for us. If we lost control of the schools, Catholic baptisms and marriage ceremonies would cease to be required to get on the premium enrollment lists. Then religious sacraments would be confined to the truly religious and Holy Communion and Confirmation would slowly disappear out of the schools. Losing Education would mean losing most of the population of this state and already the Godless are circling. I shudder to think of it.

Poster with principles of Education Bill being promoted in Ireland
(Photo sourced: Internet)

Would it be wrong of us to pray for a religious spectacle, Holy Father? Some kind of miraculous apparition, such as with the young wans at Lourdes or at Fatima? It does seem as though only a miracle might save the Church here in the long run.

Yours in faith and humble obedience,

Pious O’Madaun.

OREGON USA: NO FREE SPEECH FOR FASCISTS!

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

Like fascists in many other parts of the world, those on the Oregon demonstration marched under the slogan of “free speech”.  NO FREE SPEECH FOR FASCISTS!

 

Police in Oakland, Oregon, went into riot police mode at a fascist march on Saturday (4th August 2018) which was opposed by anti-fascists. After maintaing a presence between the two forces for some time they eventually moved to break them up and employed ‘flash-bangs’ and other methods. The march without a permit by fascists was organised by the Patriot Prayer organisation led by Joey Gibson who is running for election to the US Senate and who declares that they are demonstrating for free speech.

Right-wing supporters of the Patriot Prayer group gather during a rally in Portland, Oregon, U.S. August 4, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart – RC1E0096DB40

Feelings in the town are already running high after a Patriot Prayer supporter was charged with stabbing a man who allegedly intervened to defend from harassment two women on a light-rail train last year, one of whom was wearing a hijab.

According to reports, Gibson declared to supporters that they were there “to teach a lesson to the country” minutes before they began to march. On June 30th, a previous Patriot Prayer event led to clashes with anti-fascist demonstrators, during which the Oakland police revoked the permit for the demonstration and declared a riot. Earlier on Saturday, in a response to Oakland Police reminding people of a city code banning carrying weapons in the public park, Gibson posted: We’ve always had guns at the rally. I cannot think of one rally when we didn’t have guns with us. Everywhere we go, we have guns.”

Anti-fascist opposition to Patriot Prayer march in Oregon USA. Note mixed attitudes of people wearing improvised riot gear and a placard apparently calling for peaceful opposition
(photo US Media).

Earlier, Portland Mayor Wheeler had expressed concern about the planned Patriot Prayer march, as had the Police Chief. Portland Police Bureau Chief Outlaw (yes, honestly) was appointed to post last year; an African-American woman, she started her career as a patrol officer and was appointed Deputy Chief to Oakland’s police department in 2013.

FASCISM AND FREE SPEECH ACROSS THE WORLD

In 2016 Tommy Robinson led a couple of hundred supporters in Birmingham, Britain to launch the anti-Muslim group Pegida UK, which he founded as part of a Europe-wide fascist initiative intending to launch Pegida in a city in every European state (they failed spectacularly in Dublin, see Rebel Breeze report in Links). Two years earlier, he had led the Islamophobic English Defence League which soon split and melted away.

(photo US Media).

Like Robinson, who was recently given a 13-month sentence for contempt of court in Britain and even more recently released on bail for retrial, the call of fascists when not in power or in position of strong dominance is always for “free speech”. Once dominance is achieved, the fascist call for “free speech” changes to slogans such as ending freedom of speech if it is considered “unpatriotic”, advocating “race-mixing” or “moral degeneracy” and, of course “communist propaganda”. When in power they enforce the elimination of what they consider undesirable free speech, including criticism of policies or leadership even from within their own ranks. When in a dominant position in a country, region or area, fascists enforce their control of “free speech” through terror attacks on their opposition or target communities, with or without collusion with the State, military or local police force. When fascists have state control, they limit free speech through laws, court and prison, in addition to extra-legal fascist attacks and assassination squads.1

Fascists seek to establish a safe “beach head” upon which to build and from which to extend. If successful, they attract more and more followers, while they intimidate their opposition and their targets. But in failure, as when driven off the street, their opposition and targets grow in confidence and the fascist organisations usually disintegrate in internal struggles between cliques and denunciations of their unsuccessful leaders.

That is the well-documented history of fascism which the fascists try to conceal while weak but in which they glorify when in power. Unfortunately, liberals, whose bodies exist in the real world but whose ideology lives in a world of make-believe, unknowingly collude with this trajectory. Again and again they insist that the fascists and racists which they abhor must be given freedom of speech and even accuse the anti-fascists of a kind of fascist authoritarianism.

When liberals do turn to wanting to control the freedom of fascists to organise, as some do at some stages, they always appeal to the State to carry out that task for them. Sometimes, according to its interests at the time, the State will oblige, with measures sometimes including a wholesale banning2 but will often simultaneously ban progressive resistance movements.  More often it will oblige liberals by fines or short prison sentences on fascists or by anti-racist or anti-”hate” legislation. And often, fascists attempt to turn these too to their advantage, projecting themselves as martyrs of “free speech”.

The only effective remedy is that anywhere and everywhere, fascists are denied free speech – not by the State (whose capitalist interests are anti-socialist and will often recognise the usefulness of fascists) but by the alliance of anti-fascist interests: ethnic minorities, LBGT groups, communists, women, trade unions. This thesis has emerged out of an ideological battle that has been largely won decades ago among the Left and Republican movement in Ireland but which the general Left at times fails to put into practice – had it been left to them, Pegida’s attempted Dublin launch would not have been quite the ignominious defeat it was.

In this context the stand of the “Resist Patriot Prayer” march must be applauded. Their Facebook event description included the following sentence: “We make no apologies for the use of force in keeping our communities safe from the scourge of right-wing violence.”


End.

LINKS

Oregon, Oakland events, report by PBSO News Hour: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/portland-police-city-officials-prepare-for-right-wing-rally-and-counter-protest

and Associated Press in ABC7 News: http://abc7.com/politics/heavy-police-presence-as-right-wing-rally-begins-in-portland/3883335/

Rebel Breeze report on failed Pegida launch in Dublin: https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/pegida-planned-launch-ends-in-sinking-survivors-take-to-lifeboats/).

Attempted coordination of Fascist movement from USA across Europe: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jul/29/tommy-robinson-far-right-resurgence-steve-bannon-us-support

 

FOOTNOTES

1 Fascist movements and states are often plagued by splits, attempted coups and conspiracies. In June 1934, the Nazi SS and Gestapo attacked their former allies, the Nazi SA (Brownshirts), wiping out the leadership and dispersing the organisation in the event often called “The Night of the Long Knives”. They also wiped out a number of conservative anti-nazis. The death-toll has been widely debated, some estimates placing it between 700 and 1,000.

2  As by the British state of the British Union of Fascists during WWII, while their leader Oswald Mosely was placed under house arrest in a comfortable country house and land (or by De Valera of the Blueshirt movement in 1930s Irish state). However, less than a decade earlier in 1936, at the Battle of Cable Street when anti-fascists defeated the Blackshirts’ attempted invasion of London’s East End, the primary force fighting the anti-fascist resistance was 7,000 foot police and all the mounted police in London.

THEY DON’T BELIEVE IN REVOLUTION

Diarmuid Breatnach

          Most people here in Ireland and probably in large parts of the world, don’t believe in revolution, i.e in the act of overthrowing the social class in control. It’s not so much that they are against it, although a minority might fear the consequences or others might think that whatever gains they’d make would be transitory; it’s that they don’t believe it’s possible. Or they think it might be but in some distant future.

 

This is not surprising because if they did, if the mass of ‘ordinary’ people believed that a revolution was not only necessary but possible, it would already be occurring or at least well on the way.

What is surprising is that so many revolutionaries, or individuals, parties and organisations who think of themselves as revolutionary, or who would, if pressed, claim that they were – they don’t believe in it either!

By that I mean that they don’t see revolution as somewhere down the road, within sight if not necessarily close now, something to be moving towards that could well be reachable within their lifetimes. They might argue that it is not so, that they study revolutionary theory, try to conduct themselves according to revolutionary principles, study revolutionary struggles in history, organise, propagate revolutionary ideas ….. In general, I would not refute those claims but I would still say: They don’t believe in revolution.

And what’s more, that applies equally but in different ways to Irish socialists and to Irish Republicans.

I remember attending a small discussion group once organised by one of the small Irish socialist parties (small are the only kind we have in Ireland) at which the topic being discussed was the H-Blocks campaign. At one point, a prominent member of the organisation declared that the Republicans believe in armed struggle and that their party did not believe in that. Of course I pointed out Lenin’s position on this and the person backtracked but still …..

That was but a small indication of the general malaise but significant all the same. Both socialists and Republicans declare that they are not merely for reform but for the overthrow of the Irish native and colonial ruling classes. Objectively they would acknowledge that this endeavour would require an enormous effort and sacrifice. They would also concede that the ruling classes would not go quietly and, if pressed, would admit (some more readily than others), that the ruling class would resort to imprisonment, repressive legislation and, ultimately, armed power in order to prevent their overthrow.

If they believed the above and also believed a revolution was not only necessary but possible, they’d be preparing for that – but they are not.

Clearly an understanding of the theory of class, history, economics, culture etc. are all necessary. Principles of personal conduct and of organisation are very important too. But the application of principles of revolutionary organisation, the organisational preparedness for conflict and repression, the bringing of the objective into view as attainable – where is that? In the socialist camp, it is generally nowhere to be seen. In the Republican camp, it is visible only in very limited and restricted forms.

 

ORGANISATION

          Socialists accept on a theoretical level that the revolutionary organisation of at least a large section of the working class is necessary in order to achieve a socialist revolution. Many Republicans would probably agree. But the overall practice of both camps is in clear contradiction to that principle.

We can see that clearly if we investigate a little how the working class needs to be organised as a fighting movement in which a large section can become revolutionised, conscious of itself as the leading class of the revolution and not only preparing for but engaging in struggle to that end.

Clearly, an actual mass workers’ organisation is required, a mass organisation based on workplaces, industries, communities where workers live. For the moment, I don’t wish to discuss whether that mass organisation be a party, a movement, a trade union, or a federation of collectives — nor do I think it necessary to specify type in order to develop the point I am making.

OK, so what are the Republicans or socialists doing to achieve that mass organisation of the working class?

In Ireland the most readily-understood and ready-to-hand mass organisations for workers are the trade unions. They are led for the most part by bureaucrats from the top down to shop steward and often even there, the dominant societal ideology is some level of reformist social democracy, the higher leadership is dominated by careerists and opportunists, often linked to a political party of the capitalist system and, as if that weren’t enough, all those tendencies brought them into two decades of formal social partnership (sic) with State and Employers which totally atrophied whatever fighting muscle they may once have had.

Yes, all that. And even so, it is the place to begin.

On the whole, except for some exceptional individuals and perhaps some very short historical periods, Irish Republicans have not bothered with trade unions. Certainly, the Republican movement as a whole has not considered it an important area of struggle for the movement.

Socialists, on the other hand, have generally rated the importance of struggle in the trade union movement very highly. They have participated in elections to become shop stewards, organised industrial resistance action, at times combined to try to elect more militant higher officials, produced leaflets for and about workers’ struggles, sold papers on picket lines and brought speakers from strikes to speak at public meetings. But all those efforts have not produced a revolutionary or even a militant workers’ movement.

A shop steward represents the members who elected her and, her personality apart, they will have a range of views about her political ideology. A more militant trade union higher official may push for more militant action with more or less success – or may increasingly become part of the problem. Some workers may find an interest in some of the ideas expressed in newspapers of the Left and may or may not join this or that party. None of that is organising a worker’s mass movement.

How about then, organising a broad worker’s movement, across many different workplaces?

Now, that has actually been done. Such organisations have been given titles like “Broad Left” or “Grassroots”. And in terms of building a workers’ organisation, they were a colossal failure, the experience of them probably enough to put most workers off socialist politics for a long time, if not forever. The main reason for their failure is that various socialist organisations or parties used them as forums to fight for the dominance within the broader organisation of their party, their organisation, over others.

In one kind of work or large organisation, one of those parties became dominant while another party claimed dominance in another. Sometimes control of one “grassroots” union organisation shifted backwards and forwards, year after year, between different political Left parties as the latter’s fortunes waxed and waned, as they suffered splits, as they formed different alliances.

Pickets outside the Dublin depot of the Greyhound waste collection company in a 14-week dispute in 2014. Community and political activists organised support but there was no workers’ grassroots movement do the same.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Still, it does seem to me, as one who has been a worker in both the manual and what might be called the clerical types of work, as a revolutionary and active trade unionist, that the grassroots model is the one to follow, in order to create the nucleus for the mass workers’ movement. It needs to be based not in one union, not organised around electing different officials (though it may do that from time), certainly not around parliamentary electoral politics in general and not to be the fief or plaything of any political party or parties of the Left. It needs to be based in general on active resistance, on struggle, on solidarity across unions, across workplaces and across industries. It can develop participative democratic forms of membership and representation, its own mass media and in time, cultural and education groups, mutual aid etc, extending into the whole life of the working class.

But who is undertaking that work? Nobody.

REPRESSION & UPRISING

          Moving on to another area of preparation for revolution, if we accept that the revolutionary path necessarily incurs repression from the class (or classes) that we seek to overthrow, then we’d need to know something about street fighting, about being interrogated in detention, and prison life, right? At least here we find quite a few Republicans nodding in agreement. But the socialists? Blank looks from them.

Deviating from the rich literature on the Irish Republican jail experience, this is about the prison struggles of John Barker, an English political prisoner jailed with social criminals in British jails in the 1970s. (Image source: Internet).

However, not all is well here among the Republicans, either. Not all will be having any kind of training in resisting interrogation and hardly any at all in discussion of theory and practice in street fighting. Due to traditions in particular from the 1970s onwards, prison for Republicans in Ireland usually means segregation from people convicted of social crimes and segregation from other Republicans too, according to organisational membership or alliance. Still, a lot of experience has been accumulated in that kind of environment and extensively written and talked about in the Republican movement. But next to nothing about street fighting, unless we include in that the use of firearms or at least the construction of a Molotov cocktail. The engagements envisaged in that respect are of a hit-and-run nature, skirmishes and small battles ….. and not at all a popular uprising in which extended conflicts will become the rule, at least until revolution occurs or the ruling class, at least temporarily, gains the upper hand.

Two sides of street fighting — the people and the forces of repression — the Battle of the Bogside, Derry 1969. (Image sourced: Internet)

CONCLUSION

          If the areas I have pointed out are crucial areas of revolutionary preparation, we can perhaps agree on some principles:
A revolution in a developed capitalist society is not possible without a mass, militant and socially-politicised workers’ movement.

A revolutionary struggle entails physical confrontation, including large-scale street fighting and must expect repression; therefore revolutionary preparation must include training revolutionaries in conducting the first and resisting the second.

Those who are not undertaking work around those principles above, or at least considering how to do so, no matter how energetic or militant they may be, cannot be said to really believe in revolution; at most they can only see it as some distant thing, which perhaps another generation will undertake, some kind of life after their death.

And if they don’t believe in it, how can they expect others to believe?

End.

A RESISTANCE SYMBOL SOWN AND GROWN BY IRISH REPUBLICAN WOMEN

Diarmuid Breatnach

                         As we approached Easter again some people were wearing the Easter Lily on their upper clothes, either in the original pinned paper form or as an enameled metal badge. It is a tradtion: some people will wear it around the actual anniversary dates of the Rising and executions and some will wear it all year long. Originally it was an idealised form of the Easter Lily (Lillium longiforum) but is now seen more as a representation of the Calla Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica).

The emblem, although in close relationship to the Easter Rising, represents to some all those who have died for Irish freedom. Most Irish people, including sadly some of those who wear it, will be unaware that the idea to create them was that of Republican women and that they were the first to produce and sell them.

In 1926, three years after the defeat of the Republican forces by those of the Irish Free State (sic), the Republican women’s organisation Cumann na mBan1 produced the Lily badges and sold them. They used them to raise funds for the Republican prisoners of the Free State and for their dependents but it was also a way for them and others to declare visibly their support for the Republicans at a time when the new State had an iron grip on its opposition, many of its enemies in jails or in concentration camps, in hiding or had left the country. The formal executions of prisoners by the State had ceased in 1923 but the assassinations carried out by CID and Irish Army murder squads had continued afterwards (80 formal executions and up to as many as 153 shooting of captured fighters and assassinations).

It may also have been intended as a visible counterpoint to the British Legion’s “Poppy”, which was worn by thousands in Ireland in those years (tens of thousands Irish had been killed in the British Army and a great many maimed) .

The 12,000 Republican prisoners of the Free State included around 400 women, members of Cumann na mBan, Sinn Féin or of the Irish Citizen Army but towards the end of 1923 most of these were released. However, it was a brave person who publicly declared their support for the defeated Republic — the banned Cumann na mBan, most of whose members had opposed the Treaty, stepped forward to occupy that dangerous public space.

The same year that Cumann na mBan developed the Easter Lilly, De Valera and Aiken, formerly of the Republican forces, formed the Fianna Fáil (“Soldiers of Destiny”) political party to campaign within the Dáil (the Irish Parliament) for a Republic, their elected public representatives entering in 1927, having taken the Oath of Allegiance to the Free State and of fidelity to the English monarch in Ireland. Meanwhile, the rest of the Republican movement, IRA, most of Cumann na mBan and Sinn Féin, remained opposed to participation in what they considered to be an endorsement of the partition of Ireland. During the early period thereafter Fianna Fáil continued to grow while Sinn Féin and the IRA declined in numbers and electoral votes but largely supported Fianna Fáil electorally at first, though the IRA prohibited its members from joining the party.

While Fianna Fáil was heading towards Constitutional methods, the IRA in November 1926 captured 11 Garda Síochána barracks, in the course of which they shot dead two Gardaí. The Free State reacted immediately, interning 110 IRA men without trial the following day. The following year IRA Volunteers assassinated Free State minister Kevin O’Higgins for his responsibility in executions of Republican prisoners during the Civil War.

FROM PAPER FLOWER TO BADGE

Originally the Easter Lily was actually a three-dimensional paper flower rather than a badge. Anne Matthews, who wrote a rather hostile history of Cumann na mBan, also wrote in her blog a good account of the origins of the Easter Lily emblem within the organisation.2

In early 1926 the reformed (fourth) Sinn Fein party3 instigated the first Day of National Commemoration, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rebellion at Glasnevin Cemetery on Easter Sunday. Cumann an mBan planned to take part in this event, and early in February the executive saw an opportunity to use the event to raise some funds and perhaps increase membership and they decided to hold a flag day at the cemetery.

Over a series of meetings of the executive committee the women discussed the idea of the flag day, and decided instead to make it a ‘Flower Day’. Sighle Humphreys said they had considered flowers that bloomed in spring such as the crocus and the pansy, but eventually decided on a flower known generically as the Easter lily (botanical name is Lilium longiforum).

Within weeks Fiona Plunkett sent a circular letter to all branches of Cumann na mBan to explain the purpose of the Flower Day.

The flower we have decided upon is a lily (enclosed find sample) as we consider this would be the most suitable for Easter and it has also the Republican colours…You ought to call a meeting of all Republican women and young girls… and arrange for the collection at masses and at Commemoration Parades, football matches or fairs during the preceding week.

The Easter Lily flower, Lilium Longiflorum — this was reproduced as a paper flower, the first Easter Lily symbol by Cumann na mBan

The first Republican Easter lily was a paper flower. Cumann na mBan ordered 45,000, and asked the IRA for support by issuing a joint proclamation and assisting them in selling the flower. The men refused the invitation. The first Easter lily ‘Flower Day’ made a profit of £34 (£1,453 at today’s rates — DB4) but despite their disappointment with lack of support from the IRA, they gave them half the profits. Undaunted, the women continued with the Flower Day campaign every Easter. In 1929 and Cumann na mBan in its circular proclaimed:

Funds are needed to create an atmosphere favourable to our army… Funds are needed to educate people to resist the Free State and Northern “governments” …When you buy an Easter lily you are directly helping to overthrow foreign rule in Ireland.”

By the early 1930s the membership of Cuman na mBan had shrunk to such small numbers they could not do it alone and an Easter lily committee was formed comprising members of Cumann na mBan, the IRA, and Sinn Fein, consequently Cumann an mBan lost control of the venture.

In 1933, there was difficulty in sourcing Irish-made paper for the artificial flowers, and as Cumann na mBan were spearheading a ‘buy Irish’ campaign, a decision was taken to stop making the flowers and instead create a paper flag/badge, which could be worn on the lapel. However, the Lilium longiforum/ Easter Lily did not transfer well to the flag and the resulting image is more like the Calla Lily. The design they chose is the same design that is sold to this day.

The design of a typical (pinned) paper Easter Lily badge nowaday.
(Image sourced: Internet)

In 1937 Cumann na mBan made a statement about the money raised by the Easter lily campaign:

The men of Easter Week laid down a very definite road for the Irish people to travel towards freedom… All those who support the lily campaign can rest assured that the money raised is devoted to no other purpose than the propagation of these ideals and the securing of the necessary materials for their realisation.‘”

The Calla Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica), which the paper badge image came mostly closely to represent.
(Image sourced: Internet)

 

THE LILY EXTINGUISHES THE TORCH

Fianna Fáil continued its policy of participation in the Dáil in opposition until it was able to form the Government in 1932, abolished the Oath of Allegiance and brought in a new Constitution in 1937, and soon became the political party most often in Government of the Irish State. On coming into power in 1932 Fianna Fáil unbanned the IRA, released interned Republican prisoners and during the early years Republicans largely supported the party even if they didn’t join it.

Another version of the Easter Lily enameled badge.
(Image source: Internet)

Cumann na mBan continued to sell the Easter Lily and not only they, Sinn Féin and IRA wore and sold it but many supporters of Fianna Fáil also. But in the mid-1930s the differences between Fianna Fáil and Republicans who contested the legitimacy of the Dáil sharpened and during this period too the IRA grew considerably in numbers. Agitation around social conditions within the new state was attracting more people to the IRA as was the struggle against the “Blueshirt” fascist movement and their supporters among the original Free Staters’ political party, Cumann na nGaedheal. In 1935 the Fianna Fáil Government again banned the IRA, along with the Blueshirts.

In February 1935, after the IRA killed Richard More O’Ferrall (due to his eviction of 11 families from his lands in 1934), the Fianna Fáil Government cracked down hard including introducing trial without jury in the Special Criminal Courts and Military Courts, against the sentences of which no appeal was permitted.

The FF party’s leadership instructed its members to stop selling the Lily. However, as many would no doubt at least continue to purchase and wear the emblem, the party attempted to introduce a replacement badge, the “Easter Torch”.

Advert for FF’s “Easter Torch” or “An Lóchrann” badge (supplied by Méabh O’Leary, grma)

It was abandoned after a number of years having failed to gain popularity and many FF members and supporters continuing to wear the Lily.

An Easter Lily enameled pin — there are a number of versions, some with a legend inscribed and some without.
(Image source: Internet)

‘STICKIES’

In 1967 Sinn Féin produced a version of the Easter Lily paper badge with a gummed surface on the reverse. This seemed an interesting innovation, doing away with the need for a pin but as the day wearing it progressed, the badge had a tendency to become unstuck at one end or another – and sometimes both – and to curl unattractively.

Sinn Féin and the IRA both experienced an acrimonious split over a number of issues in 1969 from which emerged “Official SF” (and OIRA) and Provisional Sinn Féin (and PIRA). For the annual traditional commemoration of the Easter Rising in 1970, the ‘Officials’ continued with the new gummed version while the “Provos”, less for aesthetical than for symbolic reasons perhaps, reverted to the older pin-secured version of the badge.

Whoever baptised the Official SF and OIRA “Stickies” as a result is unknown but the use of the term became so widespread as to gain almost official (forgive the pun) status. The party continued to be known by that nickname through a number of splits and incarnations and today, the Workers’ Party have not quite shaken it off.

An attempt to baptise the other Republicans as “Pinnies” or “Pinheads”never really gained ground.

Easter Lily cloth badge — rarely seen.
(Image source: Internet)

SELLING THEN – WEARING TODAY

Those who sold the Easter Lily in the Six Counties or who wore it were liable to arrest under the colonial statelet’s Flags and Emblems (Display) Act (1954-1987). It was not formally illegal in the Twenty-Six Counties (the Irish State) but sellers were subject to Garda Special Branch harassment under the excuse that the sellers did not have a license to sell (they declined to ask the partitioned State for permission and perhaps they would not have been be granted one). Flags and donations were seized by Gardaí and sellers at times arrested.

“Whenever they tried grabbing the Lilies and money from me, I slung it all on the ground. Let them go picking it all up if they wanted it!” commented a veteran Republican to me a couple of years ago. One can imagine that in such a situation, onlookers might pick the money and badges up, some to return to the victim or his comrades and some perhaps to keep for themselves. In either case, the Special Branch would be presented with the difficulty of badges blowing in the wind and coins rolling in all directions.

Placard parade defending right to sell and wear the Easter Lily — late 1950s/ early 1960s?
(Image source: Internet)

Today, the Easter Lily is visible much less than it was up to perhaps the 1980s. It is viewed by most people who know what it represents (many do not) largely as a Republican emblem (either SF or “dissident”). That is a pity. It should be viewed, I would submit, as a badge of national resistance, of anti-imperialism and as a commemoration honouring generations of men and women who have fought the colonial occupation and exploitation of their land. But let us also remember that it was the women who created the emblem and braved non-cooperation and repression to popularise it.

End.

References and further information:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_Lily_(badge)

http://annmatthews.ie/blog-post/622/

FOOTNOTES

Cumann na mBan (“The Women’s Association”) was an Irish Republican organisation formed in 1914 in Wynne’s Hotel in response to the formation of the Irish Volunteers in 1913. It was organised, as were the Volunteers, along military lines and although set up originally as an auxiliary to the men’s organisation, it had its own uniform, structures and commanders. In that respect and in its insurrectionary intentions, it was the first women’s organisation of its kind in the world. Other revolutionary women at the time joined the Irish Citizen Army, also the first of its kind in the world, where women and men were accorded equal status. Both organisations played prominent roles in the 1916 Rising along with a number of other organisations. Cumann na mBan survived the ICA by a number of decades.

See url in References and Further Information at end of article

The word “fourth” is a reference by Matthews to the various incarnations of the party which started off as a nationalist one seeking a dual Irish and English monarchy for Ireland, with limited autonomy. The current party to which people normally refer when they say “Sinn Féin” may be seen as the party’s fifth or even sixth version, although the current party claims its origin in the first incarnation.