“Another martyr for old Ireland …”

Clive Sulish

          Socialists and Socialist Republicans gathered outside the General Post Office in Dublin on Thursday (Nov 1st) to honour the memory of Volunteer Kevin Barry on the 98th anniversary of his execution. Copies of his portrait were on display with candles lit and the ballad honouring his memory was sung.

Display of images of Kevin Barry and lit candles outside the GPO at the event. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

          The event was organised by the Irish Socialist Republicans organisation. Asked about the reason for the commemoration and speaking on behalf of the organisation, Pádraig Drummond said “It is important to honour people in our history who have played an important role, who have displayed characteristics worthy of emulation such as resolution, courage and loyalty. People like Kevin Barry are more worthy of interest for the youth of today than clothing brands or pop idols.”`

Gathering to beign the vigil outside the GPO (Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

Some members of the public stopped in passing to listen to the song or to engage picketers in conversation.

People carrying out the vigil (Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

At the time of Kevin Barry’s execution the whole of Ireland was under a centuries-old British occupation and the defeat of the Easter Rising was three years in the past, most of its leaders executed and prisoners released. The first World War had ended. But the Irish Volunteers had reorganised and the War of Independence had begun in January of 1919. The ICA had seen a partial reorganisation and Cumann na mBan had never disbanded and, though it had suffered a few notable resignations, had experienced no split. The UK General Election of December 1918 had delivered a huge majority in Ireland to the newly-organised nationalist-republican coalition of Sinn Féin and in January of 2019 the successful SF delegates set up the Dáil, the first independent Irish Parliament, in defiance of the rule that all delegates elected in a UK election attended the Westminster Parliament in London.

On the same day in a separate development, the War of Irish Independence had begun. To wage war against the British occupation, the Irish Volunteers needed arms so some of its operations were carried out in order to seize arms from the occupiers. Kevin Barry joined the IRA at 15 in Dublin and not much later the IRB and had been on a number of successful raids to seize weapons.

Kevin Barry portrait graffiti of some years on wall in Dublin city centre.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

On 20th September 1920 his unit was to ambush a British unit collecting bread from a bakery and relieve them of their weapons. Collecting bread rations from Patrick Monk’s Bakery at 79-80, Upper Church Street, near the corner of North King Street, Dublin.

Barry was a medical student and had an examination scheduled for that day which he expected to attend after the operation. Having attended mass that morning, he joined the unit in nearby Bolton Street and when the British Army lorry arrived the volunteers, armed with pistols, ordered the soldiers in the back to drop their rifles, which they did. However a shot rang out, possibly from the front of the lorry and the volunteers opened fire but Barry’s gun jammed twice and he jumped under the truck, being left behind when his comrades retreated. He was discovered and arrested. All five of the British soldiers in the rear of the lorry had been hit and one, 15 years of age, was dead – another two died later.

Kevin Barry attested that he had been beaten up when captured and tortured for information later in Army custody. On 20th October he was tried by military tribunal under the provisions of the Restoration of Order Act of August that year. Brigadier-General Onslow presided on the tribunal and Barry had legal representation who, after Barry announced he would not recognise the court, withdrew. The sentence of the court, given to the Volunteer in his Mountjoy Prison cell that evening, was death by hanging. The sentence became publicly known on the 28th and a fierce campaign began to save his life, not only in Ireland. Terence McSwiney, author, playwright, Lord Mayor of Cork and IRA Volunteer, had died after a hunger strike of 74 days on 25th October and public opinion, especially in Ireland, was highly excited. Nonetheless, Kevin Barry was hanged on November 1st 1920, eighteen years of age. According the priest who accompanied him the gallows, who was not a republican, he went calmly to his death.

On 14 October 2001, the remains of Barry’s body and others were given an Irish state funeral and moved from Mountjoy Prison to be re-interred at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. A stained glass window in his honour was unveiled in 1934 at the Earlsford Terrace address of University College Dublin and was later moved to their new address in the Belfield Camput and restored in 2007.

The Ballad of Kevin Barry, which was sung at the commemoration by Diarmuid Breatnach, was composed around the time of the Volunteer’s execution and has been very popular in Ireland and among the Irish diaspora abroad. The author is unknown despite efforts by his family and others to trace him or her but there were some indications that it had been composed in Glasgow. The song has been recorded by many performers, including non-Irish singers Paul Robeson and Leonard Cohen.

End 

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TRUE WORDS FROM A RIGHT-WING EX-MINISTER

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

Quite a few pro-Catalan independence people have expressed horror and indignation at the statements of Spanish politician José Manuel García-Margallo in an interview recently. They should instead that be grateful that he spoke much of the truth and dispelled unrealistic illusions about the way forward for Catalonia.

Ex-Foreign Minister of the Spanish State José Garcia-Margallo, photographed recently.
(Photo source: VilaWeb)

Did he threaten the independence movement with violence? Yes and not too subtly. That was no doubt his purpose as well as perhaps reassuring Spanish unionists, whether fascist or otherwise.  But nevertheless, he spoke an important truth.

Spanish ex-Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said that Spain would not withdraw ‘peacefully’ from the Principality. ‘It will not deliver the keys to the dependencies and furl up the flag’, he told ‘El morn de Catalunya Ràdio’. He expressed support for the accusations of ‘rebellion’ against the Government of Puigdemont, President Forcadell, Jordi Cuixart, Jordi Sànchez and the General Secretary of ERC, Marta Rovira. According to him, the unilateral way to achieve independence ‘necessarily’ implies violence.

His statement may be listened to on the link.

https://www.vilaweb.cat/noticies/audio-lex-ministre-margallo-amenaca-que-lestat-no-es-retirara-mai-pacificament-de-catalunya/?fbclid=IwAR0aUcpJzPkLdVhJ3g-qakPXRrjq36stNhcJ2_TYUteBm0ta2Yys9Wgw_3Y

Margallo was raised in a family with close military relatives, two of which died in the anti-colonial Rif uprising, one of whom was a colonial Governor of a town there. The ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs was educated (and presumably brought up in) a part of the occupied Basque Country which must have helped condition him and his early adult life was spent under the Franco dictatorship. His early political career was there too and took shape during the Transition and since.

His statement may be listened to on the link.

http://https://www.vilaweb.cat/noticies/audio-lex-ministre-margallo-amenaca-que-lestat-no-es-retirara-mai-pacificament-de-catalunya/?fbclid=IwAR0aUcpJzPkLdVhJ3g-qakPXRrjq36stNhcJ2_TYUteBm0ta2Yys9Wgw_3Y

Translation of the transcript of the excerpt below:

-Mónica Terribas: Crime of ‘rebellion’, does it exist there are or not, José Manuel? (DB: one of the charges against the Catalan activists but which requires the use of violence).

-García-Margallo: I think there is a crime of rebellion. I share the theses of Llarena, that is, I believe that what we saw on the streets during the course of the (events outside the) Ministry of Economy was violent. I think that, by definition, unilateral secession can only be achieved by violence. That is, I say that hypothetically this leads to violence. Because? We have discussed it many times and we all agree: the Constitution does not allow secession. Therefore there will be no referendum agreed. Secondly, the Spanish state will not withdraw peacefully, that is, it will not deliver the keys to the dependencies and furl up the flag. So how is the Catalan Republic proclaimed? If it cannot be by agreement and it can not be by unilateral abandonment, then it will have to be by violence. And that necessarily leads to rebellion.”

Margallo’s political party, the Partido Popular is of course a coalition of a number of Franco-fascist organisations, put together to operate in the ‘new’ Spanish state. But the greater truth about the Spanish ruling class is more important than all this.

The Dictatorship ruled as the only face available of the Spanish ruling class – representing “old money”, from the expropriation of the labour power of workers and the plunder of its colonies but also “new money”, appropriated from the losers in the Spanish Anti-Fascist War.

In the 1960s and 1970s the Spanish State began to receive substantial US and other investment, particularly in military form. But the concern of investors was that with the rise of national liberation movements and the upsurge of the youth and student movement around the world, that an unyielding dictatorship would lead to revolution, so pressure began to be applied, although it was understood that attempts at reform after so much repression could also precipitate a revolution. Given the prevailing circumstances within the Spanish state, such a revolution could only be a socialist one.

When General Franco died in November 1975 two years and one month after his chosen successor Admiral Carerro Blanco had been assassinated, the reformers got room to move (internally Opus Dei and externally the US and others, especially the EU or Common Market as it was then). Reform and normalisation of control meant bringing on board of the ship of State two significant political forces with their corresponding large trade unions, illegal until then: the social-democratic PSOE with their UGT trade union and the Marxist CPE with their more militant Comisiones Obreras union. And imposing a Monarchy.

Both those illegal opposition forces agreed, accepted the monarchy and were legalised; then controlled and even sacrificed their own members. They pushed for agreement of the monarchist and unionist Constitution of 1978, in which the majority of a dazed and hopeful population of the state (but not in the Basque Country) voted in favour of it (and which is now being used to illegalise Catalan bids for independence).

Subsequently the PSOE gained an electoral majority and while in government in the 1980s ran assassination squads against the Basques (chiefly GAL and BVE groups, although foreign fascist gunmen were also brought in for individual jobs).

Under alternating governments of the PSOE and of the PP, the State forces regularly used repression, particularly in the Basque Country, including torture of detainees and jailing people on the basis of ‘confessions’ tortured from them and which they repudiated in court. And they dispersed political prisoners throughout the jails of the State, hundreds or thousands of kilometres from their families.

This Spanish State is one that had at one time ruled much of the world and never ceded territory without a fight — with the English, the French, the Dutch, the North Americans; with native resistance and liberation movements from the Canaries to the Caribbean, to America, the Philippines and Africa. As a monarchy and feudal system, it overthrew the Arab colony of generations and expelled Arabs and Jews, brought in the terror of the Inquisition (the worst of all the states that had it), suppressed the rising of the Comuneros and resistance of the Basque and Catalan nations. As a semi-feudal capitalist monarchy, it overthrew a Republic and then raised a military coup with foreign fascist aid to overthrow another.

So this José Manuel García-Margallo is being on the whole brutally honest here and shattering the illusions many people had, especially those of a liberal or social-democratic turn of mind, that somehow Catalonia would win genuine independence without having to fight a Spanish military repression. But they should look on his utterances as doing them a favour, forcing them to look at reality.

In fact, for all that I have recounted about the particular nature of the Spanish State and its history, the more general historic truth is also that NO capitalist state (not to mention an imperialist one) is going to stand by and see itself being dismembered and losing huge chunks of what it considers its territory and economy.

Nations that won true independence had to fight for it. In the last century alone, how did Algiers win independence from the French? How did Kenya in Africa and Aden in the Middle East expel the British occupation forces? How did the Vietnamese expel the French occupation forces and defeat the US aggressors? How were the Nazi and Italian fascist and Japanese invaders of so many countries defeated?

People who hear the truth, no matter how bitter it tastes, should spend no time in bewailing it but instead concentrate on preparation.

End.

VIVA LA QUINZE BRIGADA

Clive Sulish

 

From Eoin O’Donnel’s filming and editing via Joe Mooney of East Wall History Group, a recording of Diarmuid Breatnach singing Christy Moore’s wonderful song Viva La Quinze Brigada (also known as Viva la Quinta Brigada which, however, is also the title of another song from the same conflict but in Castillian or Spanish language).  The Fifteenth Brigade of the Spanish Republican Army was also the Fifth International Brigade, the mostly English-speaking one.  It contained volunteers from English-speaking USA, Canada, Australia, Scotland, Wales, England and ireland but due to high Irish emigration, all those countries also contained Irish diaspora and they were to be found in the contingents from those countries.

The video also contains photos of the commemoration of Jack Nalty, resident of East Wall’s, the last Irishman to die in action during the Iberian Anti-Fascist War (usually known as the “Spanish Civil War”).  The day-long event on 28th September (anniversary of his death) included songs and poems, a march led by a lone piper, unveiling of a plaque, booklet launch and showing of two films. It was a celebration in particular of Jack Nalty’s life but more generally of the Irish who, against the position of their Government, the Church of the majority, the dominant media and even, for those in the IRA, against their own organisation’s orders, went to fight against a fascist military uprising against the elected Republican Government of the Spanish state.

It was also a celebration of antifascist resistance around the world and of the principle and practice of internationalist solidarity.

A plaque to the fallen of the Irish volunteers of the International Brigade (containing many names but by no means all of the Irish who fell there). The plaque is on the wall of the Theatre side of Liberty Hall, HQ of SIPTU, Dublin.
(Photo D.Breatnach).

 

 

SPANISH POLICE RAIDS ON BARCELONA REMEMBERED A YEAR LATER IN DUBLIN

Diarmuid Breatnach

     On 20th September 2017 Spanish police raided Catalan Government offices in Barcelona, arrested some officials and representatives and also besieged the city’s offices of the CUP political party. A documentary film of the events, the spontaneous mobilisation of thousands of Catalans, the management of the event by “the two Jordis” and the CUP resistance was shown in Dublin on 22nd September to an appreciative audience and afterwards a panel of speakers contributed opinions and replied to questions.

Chair of the proceedings for the CDR (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The video, called 20 S – the Documentary follows many of the events of that day and its screening was organised by CDR Dublin. The CDRs, abbreviation for Comites de Defensa de la Republica, were set up after the Spanish police attacks on people voting in the Referendum on October 1st and arrests of independence activists afterwards and may be found in various places in Catlalunya and around the world.

Spontaneously thousands of Catalans gathered in Barcelona on 20th September a year ago to protest the raids but the leaders of the two grassroots organisations of Omnium and ANC respectively, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez managed to keep the resistance peaceful while the CUP prevented entry to their offices. The leaders of the Catalan independence movement believe it important to maintain resistance active but peaceful in the face of Spanish police provocation and have been largely successful in maintaining this line to date. The police force invading the Catalan Government offices was the Spanish paramilitary police force of the Guardia Civil, while those besieging the CUP offices were the other Spanish State force of the Policía Nacional.

Panel of speakers (L-R): Liz Castro, Eva Fantova, Clare Boylan.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

The film is remarkable in that parts of it follow both Jordis as they try to negotiate with the police and at the same time inform the crowd and keep it under peaceful. One can see that many in the crowd are reluctant to disperse when asked to by the Jordis. One also sees when they are shocked to learn from demonstrators that police have left firearms in one of the unattended Guardia Civil vehicles parked outside Catalan Government offices.

The viewer also sees the CUP leaders refusing to allow access to their offices to the Policía Nacional who claim they have search warrants but fail to produce them, despite which they remain besieging for hours, with CUP activists barricaded inside the building.

The film of the action is interrupted at times with later commentary from a number of independence activists, including journalists.

Poster for the event organised by CDR Dublin.

The film demonstrated the mass nature of the Catalan pro-independence movement and the nerve and skillful crisis management of a number of its leaders. The extremely prominent role of the leaders of Omnium (Omnium Cultural) and the ANC (Asamblea Nacional de Catalunya) demonstrated eloquently that despite the concentration of news media on the leaders of political parties, it is the grassroots organisations that really hold the mobilising power (a fact demonstrated once again the demonstrations and general strike in Catalunya in the celebration of the Diada on September 11th last year, the Catalan National Day and again this year when police estimates of the pro-independence demonstration in Barcelona put the attendance at one million marchers).

Aerial view of the Diada marchers for independence this year in Barcelona (Photo sourced: Internet)

Despite their clear activity to prevent violence towards the police and to manage the crowd, in October “the two Jordis” were among the Catalan pro-independence activists arrested for “Rebellion” and “Sedition” and have been kept in jail without bail since, awaiting trial (which might not now be held this year). Other Catalan activists, including elected representatives, are in exile.

The showing of the film was well received by the audience in the Pearse Library, Pearse Street and sustained applause broke out as the credits scrolled down the screen.

Section of crowd on one side of the auditorium. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

When the lights came on a representative of Dublin CDR introduced the panel:

Liz Castro, USA Journalist writing much on the Spanish state and Catalunya, Eva Fantova of the ANC (who had appeared in th film, particularly as a commentator) and Clare Boylan, Sinn Féin MEP (member of the European Parliament).

In questions directed towards them by the CDR representative and later by members of the audience, all the panel speakers were clear that they did not expect justice from the Spanish courts for the Catalan independentists and did not believe that a separation between Government and Judiciary existed in the Spanish State.

Both Fantova and Castro referred to the case of the youth from the Basque town of Altsasu who had been sentenced to nine years jail over a late night brawl in a bar with off-duty Spanish police in which the maximum injury was a fractured ankle. The youth had been detained without bail awaiting trial with the State Prosecutor seeking to have them tried under “anti-terror” legislation, with a possible sentence of 30 years jail. However, even under ordinary Spanish criminal law, they had still received nine years in jail. Meanwhile a group of men, two of which were members of State forces, accused of gang-raping a young woman and filming the act, were out on bail while they appealed their short sentences.

With regard to what could be expected from the new Prime Minister and the social-democratic PSOE currently in minority government, the ANC representative commented that the PSOE is a Spanish unionist party also and when in opposition supported the Spanish State and Government’s actions against the Catalan independence movement.

A member of the audience commented that after Franco’s death, the Spanish ruling class had brought both the PSOE and the Spanish Communist Party (PCE), both illegal under Franco, into the State under condition that they accepted the status quo, the union and the monarchy that was being imposed on the people in the state. Their importance was great since each of those parties controlled a large trade union, also previously banned, and together they constitute the vast majority of unionised workers in the Spanish state. Since then those parties worked to control the people’s resistance and prevent any serious change.

A number of questions about what might be expected from the European Union Parliament and from the Irish Parliament were directed towards Clare Boylan, as an MEP and as a member of the Sinn Féin party, which has 22 elected members in the Dáil, the Irish Parliament (out of a total of 158 seats). She said that both the main Spanish Parties belong to the two largest EU Parliamentary Groups, the PP to the Christian Democrats/ Conservatives and the PSOE to Social Democrats, which makes it difficult to get a motion against the Spanish Government agreed in the EU.

With regard to the Irish Government, Boylan expressed pessimism on having them declare in favour of Catalan independence, whatever their personal opinions might be, with no evident support showing among most of the governments of EU countries.

Asked about getting more coverage of the Catalan situation in the world’s media, Liz Castro expressed her puzzlement at the low level of interest generally outside of the Spanish state. Boylan reported that the Irish national broadcaster RTÉ had sent no-one to cover the Catalan independence Referendum of October 1st and when it had been attacked by the Spanish police, as she had been in Catalunya with party colleagues to monitor and to support the Catalan movement, RTÉ had been reduced to phoning her to ask what was happening.

A member of the audience commented that he had no faith in either the Irish Government or the EU and that the first had justified his lack of faith since its creation and that the second was dominated by neo-liberal parties. He did not believe that the lack of interest of the media had to do with lack of space since they managed to cover all kinds of irrelevant gossip about personalities. He said that we need to be our own media to the extent that we can, pointing out that Catalan solidarity organisations CDR Dublin and With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin each have Facebook pages on which news is posted and Casals Catalá d’Irlanda, a cultural organisation, also has a Facebook page and we should be posting information to those pages and sharing some of the information from there on to our own personal pages. The video they had seen was also available on the internet and should be shared.  The ANC and Omnium had shown the importance of grassroots movements in Catalunya and we should replicate that in the small way that we can here in Ireland, he said. This contribution was greeted with applause.

The meeting concluded soon after, the speakers and audience being thanked for their attendance and contributions responding with applause for the organisers, the CDC Dublin and for the speakers.

End.

NOTE ON CATALAN POLITICAL PARTIES

The Catalan Govern (Government) is a pro-independence coalition of a left-republican party and a conservative party, both of which themselves are coalitions:

ERC (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya – Republican Left of Catalonia) and JxCat (Junts per Catalunya – Together for Catalonia).

A further Catalan pro-independence party is the CUP (Canditura d’Unitat Popular – Popular Unity Candidature) in opposition but in support of the Government on independence and against the unionist opposition.

The Spanish unionist opposition to the Government is composed of a number of Catalan sections of parties of the Spanish conservative Right and social democracy:

Cs or Ciutadans (Partido del la Ciudadanía – Citizens’ Party) with currently the most seats; PSC (Partido Socialista de Catalunya – Socialist Party of Catlanunya), Catalan iteration of the PSOE, currently in government of the Spanish state; Partido Popular (Spanish right-wing party recently in government of the Spanish state).

There is also a coalition of groups including the Catalan version of Podemos the actual policy towards independence of which is difficult to nail down. In the Spanish state the Podemos (We Can) party has supported the right of self-determination but opposed its exercise in favour of independence, arguing instead for a social-democratic kind of Spanish federal republic.

LINKS FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

CDR Dublin: https://www.facebook.com/CDRDublin/

With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin: https://www.facebook.com/WithCataloniaIreland/

For cultural information and events: Casal Catala d’Irlanda https://www.facebook.com/groups/CatalansIrlanda/

Catalan News (10-minute daily roundup on video): catalannews.com

Spanish Minister would rather free Catalan political prisoners on bail but is totally against independence

Diarmuid Breatnach

This is a short report of very interesting interview of Spain’s Foreign Minister, Josep Borrell, who is both a Catalan and a convinced Spanish unionist.

He says that
§ he would rather have the Catalan political prisoners released on bail;
§ Catalonia is a nation, not a region (but does not have the right to self-determination in violation of the Spanish Constitution);
§ there is no automatic international right to national self-determination and
§ Scotland does not have the legal right to hold a referendum without the permission of the UK Parliament (for which he provides a very convincing argument).

 

Comment:

Borrelll is no friend of Catalan independence (he would hardly have been chosen by the Spanish Government as its Foreign Minister if he were) and has made some very disparaging remarks about the movement (liking it to “an infection”) and some individuals. He is no democrat either. However it is interesting that he is prepared to express a difference from Spanish Government policy.

His remark about Scotland will not be liked by many Catalan independentists who are fond of quoting Scotland and the referendum there as a model. But I think he is correct, both in his explanation and the situation at the time. It seems to me that the British conceded a referendum, expecting it to fail. It did fail but the result was closer than they expected. But, like self-determination of the occupied Six Counties of Ireland, any vote in favour would have to be ratified by the UK Parliament.

The main difference between the UK and the Spanish State on this is that the UK allowed a referendum but expected it to lose. The Spanish State will not permit a referendum because they know it would succeed.

The Catalan activists, politicians and intellectuals need to stop looking elsewhere for easy examples for comparison. They would be much better served, in my opinion, by examining the general history of imperialist-colonialist states against the struggles of subjugated nations and of course the history of the state in which they find themselves.

No imperialist or colonialist state has ever given up what it considered its property without resorting to violence.  When that desire for separation and independence comes from a part of what it considers its own base, the resistance is even stronger and violence highly predictable.  And the history of the Spanish State itself?  Violent acquisition of all of its neighbouring lands –until Portugal broke away and stopped at the French border (another major thief).  Violent suppression of peasants and workers and the overthrow of two democratically-elected Republican governments, followed by violent repression.  War conducted against the Basque independentists.  The Spanish state will use much more violence than it did on October 1st last year, repressing the Referendum on Catalan independence.  The only questions are § when and
§ will the Catalans be prepared for it.

End

http://www.thenational.scot/news/16835507.spains-foreign-minister-calls-for-government-to-bail-political-prisoners/?ref=fbshr

CATALAN NATIONAL RESISTANCE DAY IN DUBLIN

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

Section of the Diada celebration outside the GPO looking northwards (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Catalans made a good showing Sunday in Dublin to mark their national day, La Diada. The official date is actually the 11th but this was the closest weekend day to it, when people would not be at work. In Catalunya, of course, it will be celebrated on Tuesday.

The event was organised by the ANC (Catalan National Assembly) in Ireland and was supported by a number of other organisations, including representation from CDRs in Ireland (Committee for the Defence of the Republic), Casals Catala (Catalan cultural association) and the Irish Catalan solidarity organisation, With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin.  It took place outside the iconic General Post Office (HQ of the Irish rebels in 1916 and which still bears the marks of British bullets and artillery shell fragments) in O’Connell Street (Dublin’s main street).

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

The two independentist flags, the Estelada and the Vermelha were both very much in evidence, along with a banner in Irish and English, streamers calling for “Libertat”, T-Shirts of various kinds displaying identification with the Catalan national movement and/or solidarity with political prisoners. In addition there was a Basque Antifa flag flown. The event was held in a friendly atmosphere with a number of supporters having brought their children and, whether by design or happenstance, there were no speakers. The Els Segadors (The Reapers), the Catalan national anthem was of course sung as were a couple of others and a number of tunes were played on the gralla (Catalan reed instrument with a loud sound).

Catalan woman with the “gralla” musical instrument
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Last year the Diada was celebrated in a number of Catalan cities and with up to a million participating through the streets of Barcelona in a demonstration for Catalan self-determination, in a lead-up to the Independence Referendum carried out on October 1st, in defiance of Spanish Government prohibition and which was savagely attacked by Spanish police. The ANC there, a grass-roots organisation, was the major organiser of the Diada, which is no doubt a major reason why its President, Jordi Sanchez i Picanyol, was arrested by the Spanish Government and, along with others, faces charges of “rebellion” and has been in jail without bail since October.

Subsequently the Catalan Government, an independentist coalition, declared the Catalan Republic and then immediately suspended it. The elections in December returned a majority once again for independence.

Catalans in Dublin have also promised to commemorate the Catalan referendum of October last year.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

Photo shows another view of section of the demonstration and a supporter flies the flag of the Basque Antifascist movement.
(Photo source: donated by Catalan supporter)

 

This year the Diada demonstration in Barcelona, convened under the slogan “Fem la República Catalana” (“Let’s Build the Catalan Republic”) is expected to attract at least a million participants and there will be demonstrations in other Catalan towns too and many other cultural events in addition to marches and rallies. Although the event is organised well and people participate peacefully, the Spanish Government is reputedly sending 6,000 Spanish police – a move which will inevitably be seen – at least by Catalans — as provocative or intimidatory. And indeed evoke memories of Catalans trying to vote in the Referendum last October being batoned by Spanish riot police, as well as dragged, kicked, punched and shot at with rubber bullets (banned in Catalonia).

As the Diada was part of the build-up in the Catalan national movement last year, so it will be this year, although there is currently no plan for another referendum (Catalan political leaders have offered to hold another one but the Spanish Government has replied that would only be permitted if it did not lead to independence but instead to some greater extension of autonomy). Nor is there a prospect of elections this year. Meanwhile, the jailed cultural and political activists await trial without bail, others are in exile and hundreds more face charges. And the the aspiration for independence remains unsatisfied.

 

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

ORIGINS OF THE DIADA

Dates to celebrate the nation, except when they are those of patron saints, are usually chosen to commemorate an important event in the history of the nation – and not always a happy one. The Diada is one of the latter, commemorating the fall of Barcelona in 1714 to the forces of the French Royal House, the Borbons, after a 14-month siege, with the subsequent removal of Catalan laws and national rights. In a struggle between different pretenders to the Spanish Crown, the Catalans had chosen the losing side. The Irish, having made a similar ill-starred choice twice when the British Parliament overthrew its King, first with Charles I (Stuart) and later with James II (also Stuart), may well sympathise.

Spanish dictator Primo de Rivera banned the commemoration and subsequently, with the inauguration of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931, the Catalans opted to side with it while gaining national autonomy from the Government. However the military uprising against that Republic became what is usually known as the Spanish Civil War and Catalans fought to resist Franco. When Catalonia fell and Franco’s dictatorship was installed, the Catalan language was banned as were any demonstrations of independent Catalan national feeling, which however did not totally prevent some gestures of defiance annually on that day. The Diada has now been celebrated publicly in Catalunya every year since 1976, the first September since the death of Franco.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINKS:

ANC: https://www.facebook.com/IrlandaPerLaIndependenciaDeCatalunya/

CDR: https://www.facebook.com/CDRDublin/

Casals Catala Irlanda: https://www.facebook.com/casalcatalairlanda/

With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin: https://www.facebook.com/WithCataloniaIreland/

Daily 10-news video of news from Catalonia: http://www.catalannews.com/

“Freedom!”
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

People holding bunting of “Si” flags, the answer the majority gave in the referendum to the question of whether they wished a Catalan Republic or not (Photo: D.Breatnach)

One of many Catalan independence caped crusaders outside the General Post Office. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

In the background: children social and climbing — but not social climbers!
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

View from the pedestrian central reservation (Photo: D.Breatnach)

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Passer-by (tourist) asking what the event is about. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

WAR, SPLIT AND PLANNING INSURRECTION

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

On the 5th August 1914 the Supreme Council of the IRB, one months after the British had declared war on Germany, decided in principle to instigate a rising for Irish independence.

On 5th August 1914, one month after the British had declared war, the Supreme Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood decided in principle to lead a Rising. They envisaged, as many observers did too, that the War would not last long and arming and preparing for an insurrection would be difficult within that timeframe. The war continuing well beyond the at most expected period of a year, provided the IRB with the space to organise, plan, prepare – and also with an ally to arm them: Germany.

The split in the Irish Volunteers caused by Redmond’s speech at Woodenbridge, offering the Volunteers to British Imperialism for the war against German Imperialism and Turkey, left the secret Irish Republican Brotherhood in a position to take control of the remainder, those who declined to fight for Britain and determined instead to fight for Ireland’s independence.

Over a number of months Patrick Pearse became Director of Military Organisation, Bulmer Hobson Quartermaster General, Joseph Plunkett became Director of Military Operations, Éamonn Ceannt, Director of Communications, while Thomas MacDonagh became Director of Training.

The Gaelic scholar Eoin Mac Neill, titular head of the Irish Volunteers prior to and after the 1914 split. He would later be disgraced in the eyes of many for his public cancellation of the 1916 Rising which went ahead without him but much diminished in numbers. (Image sourced: Internet)

Bulmer Hobson in later years. By 1916 be had separated from the IRB he had helped reorganise and was even put under armed detention for a period by the IRB.
(Image sourced: Internet)

Patrick Pearse
(Image sourced: Internet)

The titular head of the Volunteers, the Gaelic scholar Eoin Mac Neil, and such founding figures as The O’Rahilly, while in prominent positions and refusing to follow Redmond, did not embody the same coherence and determination for insurrection as was embodied in the IRB.

That list above contains four of the later signatories of the 1916 Proclamation. Seán Mac Diarmada and Thomas Clarke are missing but, though central figures in the reorganisation of the IRB over preceding years, that is not surprising: the older Fenian, veteran of 15 years in British jail in conditions which, it is said, sent one third of his comrades insane and another third to early graves, preferred to work in the shadows. No doubt he had instructed his student and energetic organiser, Mac Diarmada, to do likewise in so far as possible. However, they too joined the expanded Military Council in late 1915.

Thomas Clarke, ex-Fenian prisoner and the real head of the IRB in Ireland. (Image sourced: Internet)

Seán Mac Diarmada, recruited into the IRB by Hobson but became a close supporter of Clarke’s. (Image sourced: Internet)

The fifth of the Proclamation Signatories missing is James Connolly, who in August 1914 was recovering and rebuilding the Irish Transport & General Workers union, months after the end of their exhausting 8-month struggle against the Dublin employers. But he was horrified by the imperialist war and the pitting of workers against one another, divided by the ruling classes of their respective locations, uniforms of different colours concealing their common interests. Connolly wanted a rising – not just for independence but also against the coming butchery of War. The reorganisation of the Irish Citizen Army, the worker’s defence militia, began to engage Connolly’s energies but he was only sworn into the IRB in January 1916, three months before the Rising.

James Connolly, photographed in 1900. (Image sourced: Internet)

So many different threads in Irish life – cultural, political, class and nation – had been coming together, to weave a tapestry that would be read in different ways over decades but would still have powerful images, colours and words to move women and men over a century later.

 

End.