AN EASTER STORY

 

Diarmuid Breatnach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you know your event is in the newspapers?”

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

The Easter Rising commemoration?”

Yes. It’s in the Evening Standard.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I thought you might need some help.”

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

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

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

But there’s work to be done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End.

UNSCIENTIFIC MYTH AND IGNORANCE ABOUT THE IRISH LANGUAGE

Clive Sulish

A most interesting and stimulating lecture was held on Wednesday night at Pearse House in Dublin. Hosted by Misneach, an Irish language campaigning organisation, the lecture was titled “Miotas agus Aineolas faoin nGaeilge” (“Myth and Ignorance about the Irish Language”).

 

What Colm Ó Broin, who described himself as an Irish language activist, has done is to take a number of frequently-expressed ideas hostile to or dismissive of the Irish language and to deconstruct them, analyse them and compare them with other languages and social situations. For the purpose of the lecture, he took around ten of those ideas, encapsulated in stock phrases well known to Irish speakers and campaigners – and probably to many others not within those categories.

Some of the attendance at the lecture before its start

Some of the attendance at the lecture before its start

Over the years, we have heard and read these stock phrases and ideas expressed with tedious regularity, for example that the language is archaic or dead, is full of English words, that it is an expensive commodity, that Irish language schools are elitist, that the language is or was badly taught or that it was “beat into” people. Over the years, many speakers and activists have of course countered these ideas, sometimes by reasoned argument and sometimes by a trenchant phrase, such as: “What, was it only Irish that was bet into you then?” or “Was it only Irish that was taught with an overwhelming concentration on grammar to the exclusion of conversation?”

But Ó Broin has gone about this work scientifically, methodically. For the purpose of his lecture he took around ten of these propositions, deconstructed and exploded them, revealing their underlying lack of logic and scientific fact. For example, dealing with the proposition that the language is dead, Ó Broin produced a long list of living languages around the world – the vast majority, actually – that have less speakers than does Irish. On the allegation that Irish is full of English words, he produced pages of English-language words that are of French origin (leaving aside the easier and also huge list of words or Greek or Roman origin).

Colm Ó Broin, Irish language activist and presenter of the lecture

Colm Ó Broin, Irish language activist and presenter of the lecture

Having revealed the lack of scientific truth or logic as a basis for hostility or contempt towards the Irish language, Ó Broin turned to psychology as an explanation, finding fear and/or shame as the motivating factor. Turning back to history, he reminded his audience of the Statutes of Kilkenny of 1366, when the England-based descendants of the Norman Conquest of England dating from 1066, attacked the ‘gone native’ customs of the Irish-based descendants of the Norman Conquest of Ireland beginning in 1169 (though Ó Broin did not say so, the English Normans had gone quite ‘native’ themselves by then, integrating with the Saxon nobility and the Statutes were written in English, not French).

The Statutes forbade the Irish Normans (“the degenerate English” who had become “more Irish than the Irish themselves”) from playing Irish games and music, speaking Irish, submitting themselves to Irish law, adopting Irish cultural and social customs including marriage. It was the coloniser’s fear, fear of the Irish-Normans losing their allegiance to the English Crown, that was at the heart of that hostility.

Since the Irish who oppose the Irish language cannot be said to be “the coloniser”, something else must be at work there. Ó Broin twice in his lecture called on the state-funded or supported Irish-language organisations Foras na Gaeilge and Connradh na Gaeilge to undertake social research into what is behind this attitude among large sections of the public (according to opinion polls).

Some of the attendance at the lecture

Some of the attendance at the lecture

This would of course be useful work, especially if it led to the production of measures to counter such myths and ignorance. It is likely however that the answer has already been supplied, by for example the work Patrick Pearse (1879-1916) and Franz Fanon (1925-1961), though it would be useful to have more up-to-date validation. Fanon’s work focused on the coloniser’s view being culturally and psychologically internalised by the colonised individual and society and Pearse focused more on the mechanisms by which that was done through the educational system run by the coloniser. The idea is expressed succinctly, though in a different context, in the words of a popular nationalist song, Memory of the Dead by John Kells Ingram (1823 – 1907):

“He’s all a knave or half a slave

who slights his country thus …”.

 

franz-fanon-cognitive-dissonancecover-the-murder-marchine

The lecture was delivered by Ó Broin in Irish to an audience that contained Irish speakers and presumably all present could at least understand the language. My feeling was that this research and deconstruction needs to go out to the non-Irish-speaking public in this country. In response to a question, Ó Broin replied that he had in fact written some of it in English some years ago and that material had been posted on a website that no longer exists. Currently, his work exists only in Irish. It is to be hoped that he returns to putting this work out there among the people who perhaps most need it.

End.

ANTI-INTERNMENT CONVOY AND MARCH HARASSED BY IRISH POLITICAL POLICE

 

Clive Sulish

 

A convoy of cars set off from the Six Counties to Dublin on Saturday morning, arriving in Dublin that afternoon to join in a short march through the city centre, to highlight the ongoing internment of Irish Republican activists.  The event was organised by two organisations independent of political parties or organisations: Duleek Independent Republicans and Anti-Internment Group of Ireland.

Convoy passing through Dundalk (photo from )

Convoy passing through Dundalk (photo: S. Lynch )

The convoy set out on Saturday morning at 11am am from Newry and passed in turn through the towns of Dundalk, Drogheda, Julianstown and Whitehall to conclude at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin city centre. Unusually for such events, the convoy received no harassment in the Six Counties from the RUC/ PSNI – that work was left to their counterparts in the Twenty-Six Counties.

Supporters of the Dublin march began to gather at the Garden of Rembrance around 1.15pm and from then on every arrival was stopped by Irish Special Branch asking them their names and addresses. Some refused to give them.

The political police also asked for the driving licences of three of the convoy cars that arrived at the Garden of Rembrance (others had parked elsewhere in the city).

Garda Special Branch harassing convoy arrivals near Garden of Remembrance (photo D.Breatnach)

Garda Special Branch harassing convoy arrivals near Garden of Remembrance (photo D.Breatnach)

All of this harassment was exceeding the legal powers of the Gardaí and some of those they targeted told them so and refused to cooperate with them.

The march set off from its mustering point and proceeded down Dublin’s main street, O’Connell Street, passed by the Larkin Monument and the location of Bloody Sunday 1913, on to pass the O’Connell Monument (which still bears bullet holes from the 1916 Rising and possibly from the Civil War also) and across O’Connell Bridge.

Then D’Olier Street going south, turning right at the wall of Trinity College then right again at the Bank of Ireland building (until 1800 the Irish Parliament, from which Catholics and Presbyterians were barred).

The march turned right again into Westmoreland Street and headed back across the bridge to the GPO, along the same route as so many British artillery shells and rifle and machine gun bullets had poured one hundred years ago.

The march attracted considerable attention from people along its short route with many audible exclamations about internment still being in existence in Ireland.

Duleek Independent Republicans in O'Connell Street with their new banner (photo: T..Conlon)

Duleek Independent Republicans in O’Connell Street with their new banner (photo: S. Lynch )

SPEAKERS AT THE GPO

At the GPO building (the Headquarters of the Rising in 1916) the marchers gathered around to hear speakers. Diarmuid Breatnach from the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland greeted the marchers and other listeners briefly in Irish and then went on in English to note that internment without trial, which people believed had ended decades ago, continues still being used against Republican activists.

Breatnach recalled that one Republican had been sent to jail without trial for four years in the Six Counties. Another Republican activist had spent two years in jail on remand only to have the case against him collapse and he had been set free – however, having spent two years in jail already. Breatnach then introduced Cait Trainor, an Independent Republican.

Cait Trainor speaking at rally at GPO (Photo: T. Conlon)

Cait Trainor speaking at rally at GPO (Photo: T. Conlon)

Speaking in a strong carrying voice, Trainor pointed out that the Good Friday Agreement had not brought an end to political prisoners in Ireland and that among the crowd there that day there were “family members of Irish political prisoners and indeed some who have been prisoners themselves in the not-so-distant past.”

Trainor pointed out that different forms of internment have emerged over the years, including internment by remand, where activists are held in jail for long periods of time before coming to trial or sometimes the charges are dropped before they even get a chance to have their say in court but “in the meantime the person could have done the equivalent of a five-year sentence”. Moving on to another type of internment, that reserved for prisoners released “under licence”, Trainor mentioned that for example Martin Corey, Marion Price and currently Tony Taylor do not get to trial nor to see the reason they are being put in prison, it being a secret which will only be heard in a court hearing also held in secret.

“Every man was a right to know his accuser and to know at least what he is accused of,” Trainor pointed out.

Front of the march in O'Connell Street (photo: S. Lynch

Front of the march in O’Connell Street (Photo: T.Conlon)

Speaking to those who believe that there are no political prisoners in Ireland, Trainor asked how they explain “the scores of men currently in Roe House and Maghaberry Gaol”? Trainor stated that “while there has been British occupation of Ireland there has always been resistance to it, that did not end with the Good Friday Agreement.”

“The Freestate Government is no better,” stated Trainor and referred to the case of Dónal Ó Coisdealbha remanded in custody since May 2015 and convicted, not on anything he has done but on what he has said in conversation. To that has been added “the usual trumped-up charge of membership of an illegal organisation” and the state broadcaster RTÉ added the fabrication that he was in court on explosives charges.

At the GPO (Photo: D.Breatnach)

At the GPO
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Referring to special legislation in the 26 Counties by which the word of a Garda Superintendent is sufficient to secure a conviction on a charge of membership of an illegal organisation, Trainor highlighted the cases of five men from Sligo and three from Dublin so charged and reminded her listeners that these Gardaí are part of a force “rotten with corruption as Garda whistle-blowers will attest to.”

Trainor pointed out that December is traditionally prisoners’-focus month for Republicans and called for unity around the issue of prisoners, stating that in the future it will be only through the ridding Ireland of British occupation that there will be no political prisoners.

At the GPO (Photo: D.Breatnach)

At the GPO
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

After the applause had died down, Breatnach referred to the special powers of the Offences Against the State Act in the Irish state and reminded listeners that a few days previously had been the day on which in 1972, British agents had exploded two bombs in Dublin City Centre in order to help the state push through the amendment to that legislation. Two years later they had exploded another two bombs in Dublin and one in Monaghan, killing more people in one day than any other explosion during the conflict. Yet little is said about those explosions, because they were not caused by Republicans.

Breatnach referred also to another point made by Trainor, saying that the Irish state is also becoming increasingly repressive and using its courts against people resisting the water tax and evictions. But those victims of the State appear not to see themselves as sharing the fate of Irish Republicans. “If we do not stand together we will fall,” said Breatnach, “but if we unite against repression we can defeat it.” In that context Breatnach regretted that “Irish socialists are not yet marching with us against internment.”

Breatnach then introduced Dave Hopkins, of the Irish Republican Socialist Party.

hopkins-photo-for-cropping

David Hopkins, who spoke at the rally on behalf of IRSP ( Cropped from photo by: T.Conlon)

Hopkins addressed some of the points that had earlier been made by Cait Trainor and stated that “even being in the company of a known dissenting voice could be deemed reason enough to charge a person with ‘membership’ now in this failed statelet.”

Turning to the Six Counties, Hopkins attacked the “stop and search tactics” being used by the PSNI (“the unreformed RUC”) to harass activists.

As Trainor had earlier, Hopkins also referred to the wrongful conviction of John Paul Wooton and Brendan McConville (the Craigavon Two) and to previous cases of wrongful conviction such as the Birmingham Six, the Maguire Seven and the Guildford Four and pointed out that it had taken decades for these to clear their names.

Hopkins went on to discuss further repressive legislation which will “ensure further abuses of power and lead to more and more people becoming victims of injustice.” Hopkins referred to the “Investigatory Powers Act 2016” introduced by the Westminster Government which gives intelligence agencies …. the powers to track, monitor and use in evidence web browsing and internet use against all kinds of individuals.”

“What London does, Dublin will surely follow,” said Hopkins.

At the rally GPO (Photo: T.Conlon)

At the rally GPO
(Photo: T.Conlon)

Following the applause at the end of Hopkins’ speech, Breatnach thanked both speakers on behalf of the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland and Duleek Independent Republicans, also pointing out that both organisations are independent of any political party or organisation, thanked all who had come to support the event, also the speakers and wished them all a “Slán abhaile.”

End

Irony intrudes (photo: T. Conlon)

Irony intrudes (photo: T. Conlon)

Family of supporters leaving Garden of Remembrance ad tail end of march

Family of supporters leaving Garden of Remembrance ad tail end of march (Photo: T. Conlon)

A bunch of them

A bunch of an Craoibhín Slíbhín

Special Branch harassment at work (but don't like being photographed)

Special Branch harassment at work (but don’t like being photographed)

MARXISM 2016 AND STATE REPRESSION OF IRISH REPUBLICANS


Diarmuid Breatnach

The Sunday November 6th meeting of Marxism 20161 on the theme “When Governments Lie” hosted as speakers four women campaigners and Eamon McCann, a male campaigner, addressing the packed downstairs hall of the Club na Múinteoirí. A number of cancellations of speakers had taken place, including Gareth Pierce who sent a message which was read out to the meeting.

hillsborough-speaker-when-gvts-lie-marxism-2016

Brid Smith of the SWP (centre photo) chairing the meeting When Governments Lie public meeting at Marxism 2016 weekend (Photo: I.O’Kelly)

On the podium, taking turns to speak, were Sheila Coleman of the Hilsborough Justice Campaign, Kate Nash of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign, Joanne Donnelly of the Justice for the Craigavon Two Campaign, and Antoinette Keegan of the Justice for Stardust/ 48 Never Came Home Campaign (summary of these campaigns below).

After being introduced by Bríd Smith, chairing the event, Joe Black with guitar, accompanied wonderfully by a musician on bazouki (if I can get his name will insert it here), launched the evening with Black’s powerful song about Giuseppe Conlon, father of Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four. The Guildford Four were wrongly convicted in 1975 of IRA bombings and served fourteen years before they were cleared. Giuseppe Conlon, who went to England to clear his son, was also jailed, as were his relatives the Maguire family. The Maguire1 Seven were cleared in 1991 but by that time Giuseppe had died in prison, an event that, along with his own imprisonment, devastated his son and affected him for his remaining years until he died in 2004 at the age of only sixty years.

All of the speakers emphasised that the State’s officials lied with regard to their respective cases and concealed evidence and most speakers also accused the media of complicity. In the cases of Bloody Sunday, the Craigavon Two and Hillsborough, the British state was placed in the dock by the speakers while the Stardust fire cover-up was laid at the feet of the Irish state.

Most of the speakers also warned people in similar circumstances to beware of establishment party politicians who try to flatter campaigners and decide which are the “reasonable” ones to deal with, always at the price of reducing the objectives being sought. The speakers for the Bloody Sunday and Hillsborough campaigns in particular warned against this element, Kate Nash singling out Sinn Féin as the party that acted that way with regard to Bloody Sunday (Kate Nash’s brother was killed that day and her father shot and injured) and how they tried to bring the campaign to an end with an apology from the then British Prime Minister, while no senior officer or government official was held to account and while one of the unarmed dead remained accused of carrying a nail bomb.

Brid Smith of the SWP (also SWP/AAA) addressing When Governments Lie public meeting at Marxism 2016 weekend (Photo D.Breatnach)

Sheila Coleman of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign addressing When Governments Lie public meeting at Marxism 2016 weekend (Photo D.Breatnach)

Eamon McCann, who was on the march in Derry on Bloody Sunday 1972, finished the evening with one of the rants for which he is famous, going beyond his allocated time by a fair bit and despite the Chairperson’s frequent reminders. McCann located the similarities of the cases within the class system – most of those injustices represented were about repression of working class communities, or ignoring the damage done to them and the lies were told to protect the system and its supporters – big businessmen, politicians, the police, the Army.

The meeting ended to sustained applause but without any opportunity to ask questions or to make contributions, to the regret certainly of a number of Republicans and campaigners against what they consider to be ongoing internment without trial. All however seemed agreed that the talks had been interesting and educating in at least some aspect of the issues and events covered.

WHY SO LONG?

It is good that this meeting about State injustice and lies was held by an Irish socialist organisation. It is the duty of socialist organisations to point out the injustice of the State even when the victims are not socialists – or not socialists in the way that socialist organisations think they should be. Prominent socialists Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were not Fenians but they campaigned for the release of Fenian prisoners being held in English jails (where, by the way, it said that one third of them died and one third went insane).

It is said that we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes and certainly, if we are to bring about a revolution and the society we want, we must learn from our failures. And in that spirit, I must ask: why has it taken so long for Irish socialist organisations, particularly in Dublin, to wake up to the repression being exercised against Irish Republicans?

Five years ago Marian Price, a former Republican prisoner released under licence as part of the Good Friday Agreement, had her licence revoked and was taken to Maghaberry jail, kept for months without charge or bail, eventually charged and kept in jail without bail, sick, until her mental and physical health was broken. In Dublin the socialist organisations sent a couple of representatives to one demonstration for her freedom and never attended a picket about her case afterwards.

After the Marian Price campaign ended with her release in 2013 on “compassionate (sic) grounds”, some of those involved in Dublin launched a campaign against “internment by other names”, a process by which ex-prisoners released on licence are returned to jail without even a trial in the no-jury courts of the Six Counties2 and other Republican political activists are harassed and arrested and refused bail on spurious charges which eventually collapse after the accused have been held for months or years in jail3.

I must ask again: why has it taken so long for Irish socialist organisations, particularly in Dublin where the major part of their organisation is located and most of their activities organised, to wake up to the repression being exercised against Irish Republicans?

Is it perhaps because the socialists feared to be painted with the nationalist brush? But did they not fear being daubed with complicity with imperialism instead? It is a strange kind of socialist organisation that can’t make common cause with Republicans against the tyranny of the colonial statelet and capitalist State! In that failure, it misses the opportunity to unite forces against its enemies’ state and also to disseminate its ideas among Republican activists. One might also remark that a failure of people who are prepared at times to unite with social democrats for reforms, to unite with Irish Republicans against a capitalist state is a strange indication of revolutionary socialism!

Or is it purely because they didn’t care – it wasn’t happening to them – that Irish socialist organisations haven’tt campaigned against State repression of Irish Republicans, or even protested in solidarity with them? If so, they will by the seed of their inactivity one day certainly reap a harvest of repression for themselves too. Solidarity against State attacks is not only a noble thing with a long tradition; it is a necessity for revolutionaries.

So now that this “Marxism” weekend is over, when its organisers are taking a deserved rest, or writing it up for the British and Irish version of their newspaper, or compiling their recruitment slips to see how many new members or at least mailing list contacts they have gained – will they do anything different?

Will we see the highlighting, from time to time, of the almost everyday harassment of Irish Republicans in the leaflets and newspaper of the SWP and PBP? Will their TDs in the Dáil raise these issues where they might get some bourgeois media coverage? Are we going to see PBP and SWP militants on the regular pickets organised by the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland anywhere and, in particular on those called by the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee?

We can hope, I suppose.

Diarmuid Breatnach

APPENDIX: THE CAMPAIGNS

Hillsborough Justice Campaign seeks vindication that the original disaster was due to crowd mismanagement by the South Yorkshire Police and that some of the subsequent deaths were also due to their mismanagement of some still-breathing victims and lack of coordination of the emergency services. The disaster took place at Hillsborough football stadium in Sheffield, England, UK, on 15 April 1989, during the 1988–89 FA Cup semi-final game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. With 96 fatalities and 766 injured it is the worst disaster in British sporting history. Originally, the Liverpool football fans were blamed for the disaster but subsequently it became clear that the blame lay elsewhere.

Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign seeks a proper accounting of the deaths of 14 and injury of at least 14 after British troops opened fire on unarmed people demonstrating in Derry on 30th January 1972 against Internment. Originally, the British Army and Government claimed that they had shot “terrorists” in “returning fire” after being first fired on and a British enquiry backed them on this and claimed to have evidence that some of the dead had been handling weapons.

The campaign organises a march every year on the Sunday nearest to the date of the massacre https://www.facebook.com/BloodySundayMarch/?fref=ts.

Justice for the Craigavon Two Campaign https://www.facebook.com/JFTC2

Founded in 2012, a campaign to overturn the clearly unjust convictions in May 2012 of John Paul Wooton and Brendan McConville for the killing of a member of the British colonial police force, the PSNI, in March 2009.

The forensic evidence was contradictory and in a number of cases even pointed to the innocence of the accused, electronic surveillance equipment had been interfered with by the British Army; the State produced no witnesses to the incident and only one who placed one of the accused at the scene – this witness came forward a year after the arrests of the two, his account of his movements that evening were not supported by his wife; a close family relative called him a habitual liar and then this family member was arrested and subjected to intimidation by the colonial police after he had given a statement to the accused’s legal team..

(see also forthcoming fundraiser in Dublin https://www.facebook.com/events/705695282938993/)

Justice for Stardust/ 48 Never Came Home Campaign https://www.facebook.com/JusticefortheStardust48/?fref=ts

In the early hours of 14 February 48 young people died in a fire at a disco at the Stardust nightclub in Artane, Dublin and 214 were injured.

The campaign seeks to shift the blame from alleged “arsonists” to a fault in the premises wiring and other factors within the responsibility of the club’s management and owners, including blocked emergency exits. The allegation is that there has been a cover-up connived at by the Irish Government to exonerate businessmen friends, who to add insult to injury, received substantial financial compensation for the loss of the building. An ongoing controversy over inquiry findings and ignoring of important pieces of evidence have lent increasing credence to the version of the campaigners.

1This is organised annually in Dublin, Ireland by the Socialist Workers’ Party

2A prominent example in the past has been Martin Corey of Republican Sinn Féin; a current example is Tony Taylor

3For example Stephen Murney of the éirigí political party and the independent activist Colin Duffy and members of his family

15 YEARS PRISON THREATENED FOR BASQUE YOUTHS IN BAR ALTERCATION PROVOKED BY SPANISH POLICE

BREAKING NEWS …………… BREAKING NEWS …………… BREAKING NEWS ……………

FIFTEEN YEARS PRISON THREATENED FOR BASQUE YOUTHS IN BAR ALTERCATION PROVOKED BY SPANISH POLICE – SIX ALREADY IN JAIL

 

Monday 15 November 2016

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

Six Basque youths are in jail without bail tonight and altogether twelve face fifteen years in prison, in a case arising out of an altercation in a bar in the southern Basque Country (i.e under Spanish occupation) involving two officers of the Guardia Civil (Spanish militarised police force) in Altsasu in the province of Nafarroa (Navarra).

Protest demonstration in Altsasu tonight. The slogan says: "FREE THE DETAINED!" (Source: Basque contacts)

Protest demonstration in Altsasu tonight. The slogan says: “FREE THE DETAINED!”
(Source: Basque contacts)

Altsasu is known as a town with a particularly strong history of Basque resistance and a continuing sympathy among the population. The town also has, by no means accidentally, one of the strongest barracks of the Guardia Civil.

On the night of 15th October, the two male Guardia Civil officers, off duty and with their female partners, went into Taberna Koxka, a well-known bar and night spot frequented by the Abertzale (pro-Basque Independence) Left, where they behaved provocatively. Inevitably the policemen were challenged by some of the patrons of the bar and a scuffle broke out.

No injuries were sustained by the police although one of them claimed an injury to his ankle, a story that fell flat when it was revealed that he was already on sick leave at the time of the incident due to an injury to his ankle. In addition, the Guardia Civil report itself, though claiming the officers’ behaviour was non-provocative and peaceful, did not claim police injuries and the province’s “autonomous” police force (but very hostile to the Abertzale Left), the Policía Foral, also denied there had been any injuries.

The pro-Spanish media not only spread police lies but added to them, one surreal story alleging that the quietly relaxing police officers and their partners had been attacked by 50 Abertzale Left youth throwing martial arts punches and kicks. Tragically, such lies will find a ready audience in much of the Spanish state outside the Basque and Catalan countries.

At first the police classified the incident as a “hate crime” but the State Prosecution upgraded its classification to “terrorism”.

The eight youths were detained in police raids this morning and taken to the National Court in Madrid although, upon learning that they had been named by the Guardia Civil in a list of 12 people involved, they had already voluntarily presented themselves to testify before a judge in Irunea who, however, could not be found. Despite that earlier voluntary attendance, arisk of fleeing” was given as the primary reason for refusing them bail. Two others were released under stringent reporting to police conditions and two others, who also presented themselves voluntarily to be tried with the others, were told to return to court tomorrow.

Guardia Civil provocatively driving through an Abertzale Left demonstration. The people in costume are Zapantzarak, traditional performers particularly in Spring festivals but often participating in Abertzale Left events also. (Source: Basque contacts).

Guardia Civil provocatively driving through an Abertzale Left demonstration.
The people in costume are Zapantzarak, traditional performers particularly in Spring festivals but often participating in Abertzale Left events also.
(Source: Basque contacts).

“Terrorism”

The Prosecution has asked for the Basque youths to be tried under Article 573 of the new Penal Code, set aside for crimes of “terrorism”, the definition of which even the UN has declared to be “excessively imprecise and broad” and which “may criminalise behaviour which is not terrorist.” Conviction under Article 573 can carry a sentence of 15 years in jail.

Tonight in Altsasu, Basque youth took to the streets in peaceful but militant protest demonstration (see photo).

This incident is not without a context: in recent months the town has seen hundreds of Guardia Civil driving through the town at various times and a demonstration organised by Abertzale Left on 22nd October was penetrated by Guardia Civil vehicles (see photo). The strongest anti-repression organisation in the Basque Country, “Ospa Mugimendua”, has an active following in the town.

Guardia Civil has his photo taken mocking an event organised by the anti-repression organisation Ospa Mugimendua. (Source: Basque contacts).

Guardia Civil has his photo taken mocking an event organised by the anti-repression organisation Ospa Mugimendua.
(Source: Basque contacts).

The Guardia Civil, although established in the Spanish state in 1844, is a militarised police force (type of carabinieri) associated in the minds of most Basques, Catalans and progressive Spaniards with the Spanish Civil War and with General Franco, whom the force enthusiastically supported. The force has a long history of violent repression, torture, murder and even rape. After the “reform” of the State with the death of Franco, the force was neither abolished nor reformed. The Guardia Civil is also much loved by the Spanish Right and the “Association of Victims of Terrorism” (sic), which regularly demands increased repression against Basques and Basque political prisoners, is mostly composed of relatives of the Guardia.

end

(Sources: Naiz and contacts in Euskal Herria)

‘JUST FOUR HOUSES’ — A SCENE FROM THE EASTER 1916 RISING

Diarmuid Breatnach

Introduction (for those who might need it):

In the last days of the 1916 Easter Rising, with the GPO in flames, the garrison had to evacuate and did so through Henry Place.  When they came to Moore Street, it was being raked by machine-gun fire from a British Army barricade at the junction with Parnell Street.  Consequently, the garrison entered the first house in the terrace to the their right, No.10 and tunneled from house to house until they reached the end of the terrace, No.25.

A struggle is taking place currently to have the whole terrace saved and declared a national monument, a battlefield site in the context of the Historic Quarter.  In 2007, the State made only four houses a national monument, No.s 14 to 17 and at the very end of 2015, bought the four run-down houses from their speculator owner at a million Euro each.  The Government plans to make them into a commemorative centre, in the course of which they wish to demolish buildings 13, 18 and 19.  Speculators have planning permission for a giant shopping mall from O’Connell Street to Moore Street and from Parnell Street to Henry street, which envisages the demolition of the entire terrace except for No.s 14-17.

In reply to campaigners, Minister for Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, has stated that some of the buildings are of post-1916 construction and therefore are of no historic value.  In opinion pieces in the Irish Times, one week after the other, Frank McDonald and Diarmaid Ferriter wrote articles supporting the Government.

JUST FOUR HOUSES — a sketch for three actors

AT HENRY LANE/ MOORE STREET INTERSECTION

(Sounds of shells crashing, flames roaring, combustibles exploding, rifle fire, the chatter of machine-guns)

Irish Volunteer A: “Bloody hell, it was hot in the GPO!”

Irish Citizen Army Volunteer: “Hot as Hell. We were lucky to get out alive, with ammunition about to blow.”

Volunteer A: “We can’t stay here in this laneway in the open, though.”

ICA Volunteer: “No, let’s get under cover quick! Into that terrace there … Moore Street this is, right? Sixteen houses ….

Volunteer B: “No, we have to occupy just four houses in this street.”

Vol. A: “Only four? But there’s nearly 300 of us here!”

Vol. B: “I know. But orders …”

Vol. A: “Damnation! OK, best bash that door down, No. 10.”

Vol. B: “No, not that one.”

Vol. A: “Why not?”

Vol. B: “Only Numbers 14 to 17.”

ICA Vol: “But they’re in the middle of the terrace. We’d get shot to pieces by the British machine gun up at Parnell Street – and we have to carry Connolly’s stretcher so he’d get shot too!”

Vol. B: “Yeah, they’ve already shot up The O’Rahilly’s lads.”

Vol A: “Whose orders are these? Who says we should all pile in just four houses in the middle of the terrace?”

Vol. B: “Somebody called Humphreys …. and a Mac Donald …. and a man called Ferriter. Something about only those four houses being of historic significance.”

ICA man: “What? Bloody rubbish – look, go and ask Connolly what he thinks. He’s the Commandant of this garrison, not that lot, whoever they are.”

(A few minutes later)

Irish Volunteer B: “Well, what did Connolly say?”

Vol A: “His exact words? ‘Don’t be stupid lad – break down the door of No. 10 there and tunnel along the terrace, from house to house, aye, all the way to the end – No. 25, isn’t it?’ ”

ICA man: “That’s more like it – I knew we’d get some sense out of Jim – I mean, the Commandant.”

Vol A: “Thanks be to Jayzus for someone with sense in charge. Who the hell are that other lot and where did they come from, that Humphreys, MacDonald and Ferriter?”

Vol B: “I dunno. Give’s a hand with this door before we get shot out here, gabbing …”

(Sound of nearby hammering, wood splintering …)

RTE’s ‘Rebellion’ series, and its propaganda value

Source: RTE’s ‘Rebellion’ series, and its propaganda value

By Tom Stokes, from his Irish Republic blog

 

There are occasions in life when time that can never be retrieved is expended on something that is worthless. So far, three valuable hours of my life has been wasted on what RTE describes as a ‘commemorative drama’ to herald the beginning of the Centenary year of the 1916 revolution. Wasted, other than in terms of understanding the propaganda value to the political class even of badly constructed ‘historical’ costume drama – although describing ‘Rebellion’ as coherent drama is stretching it.

I quibbled after the first episode about the use of the term ‘Rebellion’ instead of the more accurate term ‘Revolution’, but it finally dawned on me with Episode 3 that what the writer, director and producers really mean is that this is about rebelliousness within the featured families, to which the 1916 Revolution is just a backdrop.

It would be a useful exercise after the series comes to an end to put a stopwatch to good use to work out the proportion of the five hours of screen-time that is devoted to an exceedingly poor and skewed telling of the story of the 1916 Revolution, and what proportion was used to tell the confusing, intertwined, and fairly inconsequential stories of domestic disagreement. There is of course a market for the latter, and for its setting in a sort of ‘upstairs-downstairs’ genre, but this series, more soap than serious drama, should not be its vehicle.

The 1916 Revolution – what was it really about, who made up the rank-and-file – essential to the creation of a revolution, what scale of operation was in play, what impediments to success existed? Nobody can be any the wiser by relying on this series.

The leaders – who were they, what were they like, what did they believe in, was there a plan, had they some endgame, some vision? Nobody can be any the wiser by relying on this series.

Where is Tom Clarke, or Seán MacDiarmada, or Joe Plunkett, three iconic signatories of the Proclamation, all present in the GPO – but not so far in this sorry series? No clue as to their characters, and precious little of James Connolly’s – relegated to a bit part, or of Patrick Pearse’s – other than his addiction to prayer, his deference to the clergy, his obsession with blood sacrifice, and a capacity for rhetorical exaggeration – as RTE would have us believe.

Where is the evidence of strong public support particularly in the impoverished inner city tenements, without which the revolution could not have lasted almost a week? We know it was there, we who have bothered to acquaint ourselves with the true narrative. Instead, that hoary old myth of widespread public disaffection with the revolution is hammered home at every opportunity.

Episode 3 begins with some bearded chap being put up against a wall and shot by firing squad. Who was he? We are none the wiser by the end of Episode 3. Why might it be important to know that he was Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, a journalist, an advanced-feminist, a pacifist who had played no part in the revolution itself? Because, perhaps, that it is true, and that he was murdered on the command of a crazed, out-of-control British army officer – an essential detail of the 1916 narrative – but not as the masses are supposed to know it since it would upset the entirely revisionist slant of this television disaster, a revisionism that is deliberately applied. And so it goes on.

Against fleeting scenes of chaos, created as we are led to believe by violent anti-democratic nutcases hell-bent on creating a Catholic state, we are encouraged to note the stabilising influence and the manners and the etiquette of both the Irish ‘Castle Catholics’ and their British masters in Dublin Castle. Fast-forward by 100 years and we see the same spurious choice being presented to the people by the political class – ‘stability’ or ‘chaos’, white or black, good or bad. No need to tease out what each side really stood for back then, or what each side stands for now.

There are those who ask ‘what matter – it is only TV drama?’. Propaganda is at its most effective when it is inserted subtly into the thought-processes of its target audience, and repeated through various forms from news and current affairs, commentary, and yes, entertainment. That works, as Joseph Goebbels knew all too well.

RTE claims an audience of 600,000 for its first episode of ‘Rebellion’. A large proportion of these will vote in the upcoming general election in which the main choice will be between, the political class tells us, stability or chaos. And that audience is also entering into the centenary year of the 1916 revolution with its competing interpretations, one of which champions the Redmondite parliamentarian Home Rule option over the other – the right of a people to self-determination and self-government, to be established through revolution where no other viable option was available. Presenting a partisan and therefore skewed version of the 1916 revolution primes at least a part of that audience to adopt a negative view of the legitimacy of that revolution and of its leaders, and that represents a highly political intervention in the popular history of 1916 on the part of the State broadcaster, RTE. It is not, presented in that way, just TV drama.

‘Rebellion’ looks like a cheap production, but cost as much as Ken Loach spent making The Wind That Shakes The Barley – an excellent production for the big screen, which grossed three times its production costs at the international box-office. Why wasn’t Loach asked to make this series? It is not as if he lacks experience. But then, he could be relied on to create a credible narrative around the main story of revolution and to consign the less consequential sub-plots to their rightful places. That would not suit the political class, including its RTE functionaries.

The 1916 revolution is an intriguing, exciting and rich human story, as rich in dramatic potential – characters, incidents and plot-lines – as was the highly successful and accurate 1913 Lockout TV drama ‘Strumpet City’, produced by RTE in 1980. ‘Rebellion’ on the other hand is dross. Some people, their names figuring prominently on the credits of each episode, opted for dross, and each received a considerable reward tor taking that option.

The foundational narrative of modern Ireland – in which the 1916 Revolution is the inciting incident – deserves to be treated with a modicum of respect. That is entirely absent in this spurious version.

There are times when we remark that ‘you couldn’t make it up’. The series writer did, with input from others.

And there are times when we remark that ‘it couldn’t get any worse’. Oh yes it can, and it will.

Of that I am certain.