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 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.
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.
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.
A crowd gathered at the Dublin and Monaghan Bombing Monument in Talbot Street this evening for a short ceremony and the start of a march to rally at the General Post Office building in Dublin city’s main street. The event was organised by Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland “to highlight imperialist war-crimes around the world, from Ireland to Yemen and Syria.”
View of section of crowd before start of event with the Memorial in the background (Photo: D.Breatnach)
As people assembled, a crowd of European youngsters was noted passing by, no doubt part of some scheme to learn English and something of the culture outside their own country. Sadly their teacher passed by the Monument without calling their attention to it.
The bombings on 17 May 1974, killing 33 civilians and a full-term unborn child and injuring almost 300, claimed the highest toll of any event during the 30 Years War and was the deadliest attack in the history of the Irish State. The bombings were organised by British Intelligence agents with Loyalist participation and not one person was ever charged.
It was not a good day for the march and participants came prepared for the worst but the rain stopped just before the event and held off, apart from an occasional drizzle, until after the event, when it fairly lashed down.
Pádraig Ó Fearghaill spoke first in Irish welcoming all who had attended, outlined the order of events and then called on George Galloway, famous British anti-imperialist politician, writer and broadcaster, to lay a floral wreath at the monument, which he did. Ó Fearghaill then called on Diarmuid Breatnach to sing the Woody Guthrie song about the massacre of mineworkers in Colorado, USA, by capitalists including the imperialist John D.Rockefeller. Breatnach sang “The Ludlow Massacre”.
The march then formed up and, led by a floral wreath-holder and black flags, proceeded up Talbot Street, into North Earl Street and up to the GPO. Along the way they chanted“From Ireland to Palestine- Occupation is a Crime” and “Donald Trump/Theresa May- How many kids did you kill today?” The demonstration received a lot of support from passers by along the way and drivers of cars and buses who beeped to show support. The marchers, some of who were carrying candles or light up boards made there way to the GPO where a further crowd had already gathered.
From well-known activists participating and banners carried it was clear that the march had attracted wide support across sections of the Republican movement in parties and campaigns, with participation of independent activists of republican, anarchist and socialist background.
Outside the GPO building, Ó Fearghaill called on Máire Uí Mhaoileoin to lay a wreath in memory of those who have lost their lives as a result of imperialist war-crimes and then introduced George Galloway, who remarked that he was proud to speak outside the building that had played such a part in the first blow against the British Empire of the last century. Galloway went on to refer to continuing British occupation of the Six Counties of Ireland and imperialist interference in the Middle East and the occupation of some countries. In the latter category he praised the Palestinian Ehed Tamimi, whose 17th birthday was just that day and called her “a leader of the resistance for the whole Middle East”.
Reminding the attendance of the ongoing crime of internment, Ó Fearghaill announced a representative of a campaign around Tony Taylor, who announced he was reading a statement from Lorraine Taylor, Tony’s wife. Taylor, a Derry Republican, was detained in March 2016 and has been in jail since, without trial or even charge.
Presenting Diarmuid Breatnach again to sing the famous Eric Bogle anti-war song “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”referencing the bush-ballad of “Waltzing Matilda”, the Australian unofficial national anthem. However, following
a suggestion from a participant, Breatnach led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” in English and in Irish to Palestinian child-prisoner Ehed Tamimi. After Breatnach’s rendition of Bogle’s song, Ó Fearghaill thanked all the the participants and promised that Anti-Imperialist Ireland would continue to build up resistance against imperialism in Ireland and in the world beyond.
It is time for plain speaking. Preserving a united front is not always a good thing. This I know will seem like a kind of heresy, maybe the talk of an individualist, a wrecker of some kind. Whether unity is a good thing or not depends on the cost – what is gained by it and what is lost. So allow me to give some examples from Irish history to illustrate my point.
At the end of the 19th Century the Irish Parliamentary Party, also known as the Irish Party or the Home Rule Party, had by far the widest support of Irish people seeking some degree of independence from British rule. The Irish Parliament, a minority parliament to which only Anglicans were admitted, had been abolished by fraud and bribery in 1880 and in 1881 Ireland formally became part of the United Kingdom, with its elected representatives taking seats in Westminster, where the Irish population was under-represented proportionally by MPs who were outnumbered and sure to be outvoted.
There were other voices, of course, which did not support that party. Connolly castigated it often, partly because it contained capitalists and slum landlords and partly because they postured around commemorations of Irish nationalists and even Republicans of the past, without fighting for Irish independence in the present. The tiny Irish Socialist Republican Party which Connolly jointly founded was hostile to the Irish Party, as was the somewhat larger Irish Labour Party, which he also led in founding.
The small Sinn Féin, a nationalist dual-monarchy party, did not support the Irish Party, nor did the remains of the IRB, nor Ininí (modern spelling) na hÉireann. But the Irish Party was unquestionably dominant on the Irish political scene, not only in the elections for seats in Westminster but in many local authorities too. In fact, their only united opposition of any weight in Ireland was from the Unionists. The Irish Party called on all who supported any measure of Irish independence to support their party but others argued that the Irish Party would never lead them to independence, that it did not support the vote for women, that it was full of corruption and cronyism, and so on. History proved the critics right.
When the Irish Volunteers was formed in 1913, at first the Irish Party (then under the leadership of John Redmond) took little interest and only a few of its supporters joined the organisation’s executive committee but many of its electoral support flocked to join the ranks. Redmond, taken aback by the numbers joining, demanded the doubling in numbers of the executive, with all the additional seats going to his nominees; the threat was that otherwise he would denounce the organisation. Since he already had some of his party on the committee, such a change would give him overall control of the organisation.
It would seem to us now that this was an undemocratic demand in addition made under a threat and should have been resisted. The IRB, who had members on the executive committee, agreed to resist Redmond’s move. This was a correct call for unity among the IRB and their allies in this instance but it was broken by leadin IRB member Bulmer Hobson and, with a number of others voting in favour. Redmond’s proposal gained a majority.
The consequences of this were proved disastrous when, during a Volunteer exercise in the first year of WWI, Redmond, without any consultation much less debate within the Executive, called publicly on the Irish Volunteers to join the British Army to fight in the War. A split followed in which the majority of the Volunteers took his lead and a smaller part kept the name of Irish Volunteers, while the others became the Irish National Volunteers and faded into the British Army.
In this case, Redmond called for unity with his leadership and with the British in the War, stating that the latter would reward Ireland afterwards by enacting the Home Rule Bill which was on the statute book. The IRB, the Irish Citizen Army, the Irish Volunteers, Na Fianna Éireann, Cumann na mBan and the Labour Party did not agree. There were elements of Sinn Féin, the Gaelic League, GAA and even the Ancient Order of Hibernians (normally a stronghold of support for Redmond) which did not agree either.
The Irish Volunteers prepared for insurrection under the initiative of the IRB but with the reluctant leadership of Mac Neill who, after the British prevented the landing of German guns, cancelled the Rising and countermanded the mobilisation order. The Rising went ahead a day later with a much reduced force.
The political effect of the Rising and the reaction against its brutal suppression by the British led to the electoral wiping out of the Irish Party two years later in the British General Election of 1918 and the domination instead of Sinn Féin, a party reformed into a Republican Party and containing many disparate elements and basing itself on the 1916 insurrectionists. The call for unity with the Irish Party had been proven wrong.
The War of Independence began the following year, which brought the British to negotiations, after three years of State repression and terror and rural and guerrilla resistance war. The terms agreed by the Irish delegates in London were opposed by the majority of the Irish fighters but agreed by a majority of the TDs in the Dáil (elected representatives in the Irish Parliament). The Pro-Treaty forces called for unity with them, arguing that a partitioned Ireland as a Dominion of the British Commonwealth was a step towards an independent and united nation.
The Anti-Treaty side (also often referred to as “the Republican side”) disagreed and went to war over it, which in less than two years, they lost, again after a campaign of State terror and repression but this time, by an Irish State.
Whether the Anti-Treaty decision to go to war at that point was correct or not, history has proven the Republicans correct in their prediction. The Free State was ruled by a conservative alliance of the Catholic Church and Irish capitalists, content to remain under British domination but with an Irish Parliament. The more nationalist Government of De Valera and his 1937 Bunreacht (Constitution) did not change matters much. Nearly one hundred years later, Ireland is still partitioned and still dominated by foreign capital, although British foreign capital has been joined by others.
History has proven that the call for unity with the Free State on the Treaty had been wrong.
MORE RECENT TIMES, AROUND MOORE STREET
Fast forward to 2007: The State declared four out of the sixteen houses in the main terrace to require preservation and some wanted campaigners to accept that and to work with the speculator on providing a shoebox museum in the planned shopping mall.
Some 1916 relatives accepted that and a split took place among the campaigners who were insisting that their goal was no less than the whole 16 houses, back yards, surrounding streets and laneways.
In 2015, after nine years of neglect by the property speculator who owned the buildings, the State bought the four houses and some encouraged us to accept that victory and to go no further. Until, that is, it emerged that the State intended to demolish three houses bracketing the four they had bought. The Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign called emergency rallies in Moore Street in January of 2016, during which the houses were occupied by protesters, preventing any demolition.
After five days of occupation, Colm Moore, an individual taking a case about Moore Street against the Minister of Heritage, went to the High Court and obtained an interim order forbidding any demolition until Moore’s case against the Minister had been heard and on that assurance the occupiers left. Subsequent evidence of use of heavy machinery and a refusal to allow campaigners or public representatives to inspect work resulted in protesters imposing a blockade of nearly six weeks on the site, preventing any building workers from entering the premises.
And on March 18th the High Court judgement was delivered – that the whole quarter, backyards and surrounding streets and laneways is a battlefield, a National Historical 1916 Monument . But then the Minister of Heritage appealed the judgement, seeking to overturn it.
The Minister set up her hand-picked Advisory Group on Moore Street and eventually a Report was produced, apparently agreed by all within the Advisory Group (whether wholeheartedly or with reservations).
DISSENT AS A PUBLIC DUTY
When dissenting voices are kept quiet or stifled, what happens? The dominant voice – the one that is not silenced — carries the day ; it becomes the ‘official’ voice of the struggle. The media chooses which people and what voices to promote and the authorities recognise which voices to deal with. Those voices then become the ‘official’ voices and the path they point to is seen as the “correct” one. Those who raise a different voice, if they are loud enough or positioned strongly enough to be heard, are labelled the “disruptors”, “dissidents”, “wreckers”. But what if the dissenting voices are correct?
The Report of the Minister’s Advisory Group (from which she excluded the most active campaigning groups of recent years, the Save Moore Street From Demolition and Save Moore Street 2016 campaigns), in response to submissions made to it (including by the two campaign groups mentioned) contained some very positive Recommendations (although the Minister has not specifically said whether she accepts them) — but it also contained some very dangerous ones.
The Moore Street struggle has been fought against three main enemies: Property Speculators, DCC Planning Department and the Ministry of Heritage. And who does the Report say should decide the future of the Moore Street quarter? Those very three! And this is despite the public position taken by many of those before they entered the Minister’s Consultative Group that the Minister should accept the High Court judgement.
As for the newly-founded Minister’s Advisory Group being some kind of check on them, it has no statutory powers, it is a smaller group than was even the Consultative Group, the most active campaigners of recent years are again excluded and it is chaired by the former Chair of the Water Forum set up by the Government.
The Minister did not accept the High Court judgement of March 18th 2016 which declared the whole Moore Street quarter to be a battlefield and a Historic 1916 National Monument and she is fighting it in the courts. The Recommendations did not call on the Minister to drop her legal fight against that judgement but in somewhat nuanced language, they did encourage the litigant who won that judgement to give up his legal defence of it, the ‘sweetener’ being that he and his legal team would get their costs paid.
Should the Minister win her appeal, the giant shopping mall plan will be back on the table – Jim Keoghan of DCC’s Planning Department, before he retired, extended the planning permission for that horrible plan for another five years.
At recent public meeting of a political party about the future of Moore Street, (the first-ever by the party in question), a prominent Moore Street campaigner who was part of the Minister’s Advisory Group made a strong call for public unity among the campaigners, with differences to be discussed in private. The chairperson and both other speakers, all members of the political party, supported that call. The same individual repeated that call at a much larger event in Liberty Hall. It seemed a good call – but it wasn’t.
Effective unity has to agree on basic steps – like that which was entered into for insurrection in 1916, between the Irish Citizen Army, Irish Volunteers, Na Fianna Éireann, Cumann na mBan, Hibernian Rifles. Effective unity did not exist between those organisations and Redmond’s Irish Party, although the latter would have said that “We all want the same thing.” Tom Kettle, the Irish Party’s most brilliant activist, condemned those who took part in the Rising for allegedly damaging Ireland’s chances of achieving legislative autonomy. He put his faith in British gratitude to the Irish fighting for the Empire (and was killed on the Continent doing so). Effective unity in the Moore Street struggle cannot be on a vague promise that our aims are the same: we need to unite on the minimum basic demand that the Minister drop her appeal.
We’re on the one road
It may be the wrong road
But we’re together now who cares?
I care. We should care. We don’t want to be on the wrong road, to lose this battle.
When agreement is harmful, dissent is a duty. And when silence helps to conceal what is happening, dissent needs to be public.
As news reaches us of wars in various parts of the world it behoves us to try, not only to discern who did what when to whom but to see whether there is an overall pattern behind them. A religious explanation might be that there is much evil loose in the world but that analysis will advance us little.
The fact is that there are powerful imperialist powers ‘loose in the world’ and they are either directly causing these wars or exacerbating them, not because the men and women dominating these powers are evil as such but because they strive to control resources, markets and strategic areas. This striving brings these powers into conflict not only with the interests of millions of people in the respective areas but also into competition with other imperialist powers – and this competition has led to two World Wars and many smaller ones in the last century alone.
In the first of those on a World scale, 1914-1919, Britain (or the UK, if one prefers) went to war with Germany. The Austro-Hungarian Empire lined up with Germany as did the Ottoman Empire. Russia, France, the USA and other powers lined up with Britain. And many other states and colonies and territories got pulled into the conflict.
WHAT WAS THE WAR ABOUT?
It was about many things – and not exactly the same things for each participating state – but basically it was about who would have the lion’s share of the resources of the less-developed world, in particular Africa and who would control the markets for selling those resources and also the industrial goods produced in the “home countries”. And, in order to control those things, which power would control strategic areas in the world – which included ports for navies and forts along certain overland trade routes and coasts.
What brings other countries and territories in?
Smaller players join with great powers for a share of the spoils or have been bound to them by treaties – perhaps they were themselves brought to heel in earlier times by the power to which they are now joined. Colonies and “dependent” territories contributed huge numbers of people on both sides, either recruited in preference to poverty, by war-excitement or by misleading propaganda that their sacrifice would buy their freedom or greater autonomy after the war.
Germany was defeated eventually and the French and British imposed a punitive surrender condition on them, allowing them to plunder Germany’s industrial Ruhr Valley. This injured national pride so much that Hitler was able to use it to whip up an aggressive German nationalism which facilitated another war, 1939-1945.
THE SECOND WORLD WAR
This war also pulled in allies, colonies and other territories. But what was the war actually about? Essentially the same things: which power would control the markets for selling those resources and also the industrial goods produced in the “home countries”. And, in order to control those things, which power would control strategic areas in the world.
The German industrial and financial ruling class, which supported Hitler, was not going for war out of injured pride – they wanted to control the oilfields and land to the east and Middle East and to knock out their main competitors in world domination – once again, the British and French but also now the USA, which had been a much smaller player in WWI. By now Holland and Belgium were mostly small fry and Imperial Russia had, along with a number of other countries, become the USSR. Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan were prominent players with their own objectives but joined with Nazi Germany.
WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST TODAY
Nowadays, the USA strides the world as almost unchallenged superpower, supported enthusiastically by a reduced UK and with varying degrees of enthusiasm by its other allies in the EU and elsewhere across the world. Only one challenger on the world power level exists, which is Russia, now a capitalist country, certainly with colonial and no doubt with imperialist ambitions.
The USA (with the assistance of its allies) seeks to surround Russia with regimes allied to itself. Not so long ago, this was impossible in the Middle East, where a number of strong regimes were opposed to US domination: Iraq, Libya, Syria and Iran. The US and allies have succeeded in knocking out the first two of these and the third is fighting to defend itself from multi-pronged attacks. If Syria falls, Iran will be next and then, from the Middle East, Russia will be totally blocked. So of course, Russia decides not to wait for that to happen and gives military aid to the Syrian regime.
The struggle for world domination is being played out in other areas of the world too, of course but this is the most intense area at the moment and the Israeli Zionist v. Palestinian struggle also plays a part in it.
It is difficult to look too far ahead in order to predict the various local and overall world outcomes. However, from the history of empires in general it seems inevitable that at some point the power of the USA must wane.
There are a number of contradictions besetting the USA but one of its potentially most disastrous is its external debt. In the typical pattern of imperialist capitalism, the financial capital of the USA has merged inextricably with industrial and military capital, leading to the description of “the US military-financial-industrial complex”. That in itself does not perhaps make the USA too vulnerable but its borrowing abroad to sustain this complex does: according to a number of sources on the Internet the foreign debt of the USA is nearly 18 trillion dollars: $17,910,859,000,000.
Well, we may think, the USA is an enormous country with huge resources and controlling huge amounts of resources around the world. Yes, it is – but that debt keeps growing. And the interest payments on it are huge – so huge that each year they are not repaid in total and are added to the debt.
Of course, if creditors were to call in the debts and the US financial system collapsed, the creditors would end up with very little in terms of repayment. That leaves the USA safe for the moment but each year it becomes more vulnerable. 32.5% of the total foreign debt is held by China and that huge country may at some time in the future find it in its interest to bring the USA down or to use that finance to pressure greater penetration into US markets (above the current level which US manufacturers are already complaining about). At the moment, President Trump is talking about getting the USA’s foreign creditors to accept lower interest repayments. He may or may not get his way but for the US, it is a bad sign.
The domestic debt of the US is over $12 trillion and 47% of that is foreign-owned too.
The USA’s economy is in many ways a military one. It needs wars – not just to fight itself but by its proxies. Since WW2 alone, it has been involved in 24 offensive military conflicts, from Korea to Syria. Without wars, how can the USA justify its military expenditure? And without that expenditure, what happens to the military-financial-industrial complex?
For the continuing extraction of resources, the USA needs compliant regimes – compliant with US needs, that is. Inevitably this results in support for dictators or regimes who are massively corrupt and who get armed to the teeth by the USA and repress their own populations, resulting in poverty, torture and violation of human rights. It also results in resistance, in popular movements which at times turn to armed struggle. Overall, the US, which seeks stability for its extraction of natural resources, creates massive INstability in the world.
THE MEANING FOR US
So what does all this mean to us? Firstly, that we should oppose imperialism. The question of “how” is a different one but the objective is unavoidable. Secondly, that to talk of achieving “peace” without eliminating imperialism is at best an indulgence in wishful thinking, at worst a cruel duping of people. Any kind of “peace” deal without the removal of imperialism is at best a temporary one only.
As for “peace processes” in areas of strong popular resistance, where ironically we often see major representative of imperialism enthusiastically engaged, since they never remove the central reasons behind the conflict, those processes merely buy a short-term stability for imperialism and capitalism to continue, more or less as before. For that reason, “pacification” is a much more correct term than “peace process”. The effect of pacification processes on the imperialist, colonialist and capitalist systems is often undramatic, not so the scale of their detrimental effect on the movements of popular resistance – but that’s another topic.
The 1916 Rising, to which Moore Street is so closely linked, represented some very important events for the people of the world and it impacted on people in all populated continents of the globe.
FOR DEMOCRACY, EQUALITY
The 1916 Proclamation, printed in Liberty Hall and signed in No.21 Henry Street, just around the corner from Moore Street, is a document not only of clear patriotic and anti-colonial expression but also a democratic and inclusive one. At a time when hardly a state anywhere in the world permitted women to vote in elections, the document specifically addressed “Irishmen and Irish women”. It also clearly expressed the wish of the insurgents to overcome the religious sectarianism which had played such an important part in securing continued colonial rule: “ … religious and civil liberty … oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien Government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.”
The Rising had expressed the gender equality intentions of the insurgents in more than the words of its address: women fought in the Rising and, in two garrison areas, commanded for awhile. The British colonial authorities recognised the role of some of those women by sentencing one to death, albeit a sentence later commuted, and keeping a number of them in prison even after many men had been released.
FOR GENDER EQUALITY
Irish women organised for and acted in the Rising in two separate organisations: Cumann na mBan and the Irish Citizen Army.
The women founded as an auxiliary force to the Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, later to assert considerable organisational independence, wore their own uniforms and had their own female officers. Women had participated in many insurrections and resistance movements across the world but no insurrectionary force in history ever before had such a consciously women-organised force.
The women in the Irish Citizen Army had formally equal status with men and a number carried arms in the Rising and fired them at the enemy. Men acted on orders from women officers in at least two garrison areas and, in medical matters, also in at least a third.
Such a situation was of great significance in the struggle for women’s rights and gender equality, not only in Ireland but in the world.
FOR WORKERS AND SOCIALISM
The Irish Citizen Army was founded in 1913 as a workers’ defence force by trade unionists and socialists and later as a workers’ army and, despite its strongly anti-colonial stance, until the 1916 Rising, maintained a strict separation from the nationalist republican organisations of the Irish Volunteers and Cumann na mBan. As detailed earlier, it formally recognised women within the organisation as of equal status with men.
Workers’ organisations had existed before, including armed ones but nowhere had such an armed organisation existed outside of armed conflict for so long (1913-1916), led by socialists and with equal status for men and women. In the history of socialist organisation and particularly of a revolutionary and insurgent kind, this was a development of enormous importance.
The 1916 Rising took place in the middle of the first of two huge international conflicts that were later called World Wars. WW1 was a struggle for markets, resources and strategic positions and bases between a number of states ruled by capitalists and those states recruited heavily from among the nations they had colonised; in Britain’s case, that included Ireland.
To many nationalist Republicans, the War represented an opportunity, expressed in the maxim that “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity”. But to many socialists around the world, the War represented a disastrous pitting of the working people under one Power against the working people of another, as well as an excuse for the suppression of demands to fulfill the needs of their workers while the capitalists gathered huge profits. James Connolly was one of those socialists.
Connolly, Edinburgh-born Irish revolutionary socialist, formerly Acting General Secretary of the Irish Transport & General Worker’s Union, had joined the International Workers of the Word, the hugely influential in the USA syndicalist organisation. As well as being an energetic organiser, Connolly was a historian and revolutionary theoretician. Connolly took to heart the resolution formally adopted by representatives of the vast majority of European socialists to oppose war and, should it come, to turn it into class war against their rulers. In the event, Connolly was one of the few European socialist leaders to live up to that resolution: as Commandant of the Irish Citizen Army, GPO Garrison commander in a rising against Ireland’s British colonial masters, James Connolly was also striking a blow against imperial and colonial war.
That aspect of the Rising, of being consciously or unconsciously against War, predated the February Russian Revolution of 1917, also in part an anti-war uprising, by ten months. And of course, predated the October Socialist Revolution in Russia by seventeen months and the nearest uprising geographically to Ireland, also in part an anti-war one, the German socialist uprising in November 1918, by two-and-a-half years. For all these reasons, the 1916 Rising, the Headquarters of which were in the GPO and later removed to Moore Street, was and remains of enormous significance in the world-wide history of people’s movements against war.
AGAINST COLONIALISM IN THE WORLD
The 1916 Rising reverberated around the world. It took place in what had a century earlier been widely regarded as the second city of the British Empire and, when it erupted, did so against the largest empire, in terms of directly-controlled areas and population numbers ruled, that the world has ever known. How can such an event be of other than huge interest, not only to other peoples under British colonial rule but also to those under the colonial rule of France, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Portugal, Spain, Russia and the United States? How could it not have been of considerable interest to socialist revolutionaries everywhere?
Socialists around the world discussed the Rising, at first often criticising it, while Lenin, of huge importance in the socialist movement at that time and some others commented favourably upon it. Consequently, the Rising and the War of Independence was to play an important part in the development of a revolutionary theory around the world that advocated the linking of the struggles of worker, peasant and small farmer, of anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism with struggle for a socialist republic.
The Rising was a topic of great discussion in the United States and in Australia, and in the USA of financial and other support, as is well known. Connolly had been active there and had published his songbook in New York in 1910; Larkin was actually there in 1916. For a number of reasons, including the sentencing to death of Eamon Bulfin for his role in the GPO and in Moore Street, a sentence later commuted and Bulfin deported to Buenos Aires, the Rising was discussed in Argentina and in other Latin American countries (where, at that time, the British were the main imperialist power).
It was certainly discussed in the huge country of India (which at that time included what is now the states of Pakistan and Bangladesh), whose revolutionary nationalists had contact with Fenian revolutionaries from decades earlier. The Connaught Ranger mutiny in the British Army was a direct result of the Rising and the War of Independence and, before the mutiny was crushed, the soldiers and oppressed Indians had begun to make movement towards reciprocal solidarity. And we know, from history and the writings of Indian nationalists and socialists, that the Rising and the War of Independence which organically followed the Rising influenced the struggles against colonialism and imperialism in India right up to the Second World War. We are also aware of correspondence between the Nehru and Ghandi families and the McSwineys.
We know also that the War of Independence influenced African uprisings and Ho Chi Minh, later leader of successful wars against Japanese invasion and French colonialism. In South Africa, the Rising must have been a subject of discussion too, at least among the whites. John McBride, sentenced to death ostensibly for his role in Rising was probably in reality being shot for having organised and led an Irish Brigade to fight the British in the Second Boer War, which had ended but fourteen years earlier.
In Britain itself, the Rising influenced the huge Irish diaspora in England, Scotland and Wales and a significant proportion of the insurgent forces in Dublin had actually come from there. The Rising and especially the War of Independence caused a crises of a kind in British socialist thinking, threatening an irrevocable rupture between revolutionary socialists and even sections of radical social democrats on the one hand and pro-imperial social democracy on the other.
This is not the place to discuss this further but that situation, allied to anti-colonial struggles around the world, huge dissatisfaction and mutinies in the British armed forces and a growing strike movement in Britain, provided great opportunities for an Irish revolutionary movement to influence the history of the world in a direction other than that which it has taken.
For all the reasons outlined above, the Moore Street quarter should be of recognised World Heritage Status.
UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE AND OTHER CONSERVATION STATUS
The Irish State ratified the World Heritage Convention in 1991, which qualifies Ireland to apply for that status for the Moore Street quarter. Up to US$1 million is available from the World Heritage fund for the saving and development of a World Heritage site and funds are also available for urgent works to save it. World Heritage status attracts considerable tourist interest and substantial revenue is of course also available to the State and businesses surrounding the area from such tourist interest.
Currently Ireland has only two sites which have been accorded full World Heritage status (one of archaelogical and the other or natural, mainly geological, importance). However, another seven sites are under “Tentative” categorisation since 2010 and Dublin City is one of those. The Moore Street battleground could be afforded that full World Heritage status in its own right, which I believe its history deserves but it can also be used to strengthen the case for full such status for Dublin City.
The ten grounds on which UNESCO currently relies in order to examine the “the unique importance” of a site is admittedly rather restricted in the category of historical importance, particularly in the development of social movements. However, even under the existing list, I would submit that the Moore Street battleground meets four of the criteria: 2, 4, 6 and 8. The USA has the Statue of Liberty and Independence Hall building as World Heritage sites.
Registering under EU programs may also be possible, in particular Horizon 2020.
A MOORE STREET HISTORY TOUR — A VISITOR’S EXPERIENCE IN THE FUTURE
Some decades into the future, I invite you to imagine a foreign-based tourist writing of her experience of the 1916 History and Cultural Quarter. Her name might be Isabela Etxebarria, from Argentina; she may be writing in her excellent English or perhaps her Castillian was translated.
This also formed part of my submission to the Minister’s Consultative Group on Moore Street which is soon to publish their recommendations. A number of important, not to say crucial, campaigns were excluded from that group but were permitted to make submissions. I contributed to two group contributions but this is piece is from my personal one, of which I have previously posted some sections:
“Dublin is an amazing city for someone interested in culture, literature or history. By virtue of its long existence as a centre of population, and also as a result of its history of invasions, occupations and resistance, it has enormous historical interest. It has also contributed three writers to the Nobel Prize pantheon and arguably would have contributed another one or more, were it not for certain prejudices of their times. I had read something about the Rising in Dublin against the British Empire early in the 20th Century — right in the middle of the First World War — and was eager to learn more.
I was also aware that an Argentinian citizen, Eamon Bulfin, of the Irish diaspora to my country, had raised the Irish Republic flag on the GPO, had been condemned to death after the Rising and then deported to Buenos Aires where he had functioned as a foreign representative of the revolutionary Irish Republican government. His sister Catalina had married Seán McBride, a Nobel laureate and also winner of the Lenin Peace Prize, son of John McBride, one of the sixteen executed in 1916, and of Maude Gonne, a prominent Irish Republican activist.
On Friday, we went to experience one of the famous historical tours of inner city Dublin. There are various history tours, some of which lead to a building called the General Post Office but which all the locals refer to only as “the GPO”. Other tours then take the ‘GPO’ as their starting point and it is one of those that I joined – its title was ‘The 1916 Rising – Evacuation, Advance & Surrender’.
The tickets of those participating were checked (except for children’s tours, the regulations restrict to no more than thirty at a time including ten children,) and we were handed audio earphones, radio receivers and issued with our instructions – stay with the group, obey the instructions of the guide, etc.
Our group contained some young children and a few in their late teens, with their parents. About half or more of the group looked like tourists and some asked for the foreign-language options of receivers. There was one man in a wheelchair.
As instructed by the guide in a number of languages, we tested our receivers to find the volume settings appropriate for each individual. Then our guide motioned for us to listen to our earphones … and the narration began.
Gradually, we were pulled back across the decades until we were in that amazing Rising, taking place in what had once been considered the second city of the British Empire, rising up against that very same Empire, the largest the World had ever seen.
In our imagination, aided by a commentary, it was the fifth day of the Rising and many of the buildings in the city centre were ablaze. Through our earphones, against a backdrop of booming cannon and crashing shell, chattering machine guns, rifles’ crack and whining ricochet, we could hear the crackle of flames. Irish Volunteers’ voices reported that the glass in Clery’s building opposite had melted and was running across the street like water. The heavy ledgers the Volunteers had placed in the GPO windows to protect against bullets were smouldering. Other voices added that despite fire-fighting efforts the roof was on fire and the roof lead melting. We could almost smell the smoke. Then finally, on the following day, the order to evacuate given in an Edinburgh accent – James Connolly, the socialist commandant of the HQ of the Rising, the General Post Office.
In the hubbub of people getting ready to evacuate some voices stood out: Elizabeth O’Farrell, giving instructions about the moving of the injured James Connolly; calls to evacuate by the side door and caution about crossing Henry Street, with machine-gun sniper fire coming from the east all the way down Talbot Street from the tower of the train station at Amiens Street and indeed, some bullets traveling from the west along the street too.
A man’s voice in our earphones says “It’s lucky we have oul’ Nelson there to shield us some of the way!” and we hear a few people laugh.
Then, The O’Rahilly’s voice, calling for volunteers to charge the barricade at the top of Moore Street and a chorus of voices answering, clamouring to be chosen.
Now we are out in a group and crossing Henry Street. The man in the wheelchair, having politely declined offers to push his chair, is propelling his wheels strongly along with his leather-covered hands. Brass ‘footsteps’ laid into the street draw attention to the GPO Garrison’s evacuation route. It is weird to see the pedestrian shoppers and sightseers of the Twenty-First Century as half our minds are back in the second decade of the Twentieth.
Across this short stretch to Henry Place we went, the crack of rifles and chatter of machine guns louder now in our earphones. And explosions of shells and of combustibles. The garrison scurried across this gap carrying the wounded Connolly on a bed frame and Winifred Carney, carrying her typewriter and Webley pistol, interposed her body between Connolly and a possible bullet from the train station tower.
The laneway here has murals and marking on the ground to mark the route of the evacuation. Immediately we stepped on the restored cobbles of the lane-way, the sounds of battle in our earphones receded somewhat.
“No bullets can reach us here!” shouts a voice in our earphones.
“No, but bejaysus them artillery shells can!” replies another.
Other shouts a little ahead warn us that gunfire is being directed down what is now Moore Lane from a British barricade on the junction with Parnell Street.
A sudden shouted warning about a building ahead of us, to our left, facing Moore Lane.
“See the white house? The bastards are in there too,” shouts a strong voice which I am told is Cork-accented, a representation of the young Michael Collins’. “Let’s root them out. Who’s with me?”
Another chorus of voices, a flurry of Mauser and Parabellum fire, then only the steady chatter of the machine gun up at the British barricade and the sound of bullets striking walls.
The Cork sing-song voice again. “I can’t believe it — The place was empty, like!”
“Aye, it was so many bullet’s hoppin’ off the walls made us think the firing was coming from inside,” a voice says, in the accents of Ulster.
Then an unmistakably Dublin working class accent: “Would yez ever give us a hand with this!” followed by the creak and rattle of wheels on the cobblestones as the cart is dragged across the intersection. Now we can hear the machine gun bullets thudding into the cart.
“Quick now, cross the gap!” comes the order and the dash across the gap begins. Nearly 300 men and women? Someone is bound to get hit and yes, they do and we hear that one of them died here.
Across the gap, nowadays mercifully free of enemy fire but still feeling vulnerable, we follow Pela, our guide, to the corner with Moore Street. In character, she peers carefully around as we hear machine-gun and rifle here too, but Mausers and Parabellum as well as Lee-Enfields.
“Gor blimey!” exclaims a London accent from our earphones, reminding us that some of the Volunteers had been brought up in Britain. “O’Rahilly’s lads are getting a pastin’. None of ’em made it as far as the barricade!”
An Irish voice: “Into these houses then – no other way! We have to get into cover to plan our next move.” This is followed by the sound of a door being hit and then splintering as they break into No.10, the first house on the famous 1916 Terrace.
“Careful now,” Elizabeth Farrell’s voice, followed by a muted groan of pain as Connolly is maneouvred through the doorway and up the stairs.
Pela sends the man in the wheelchair up in the lift and leads us up the stairs. When the lift and the last of our group arrive we proceed across the restored upper floors from house to house, passing through holes in the walls, as the GPO Garrison did in 1916 – except that they had to break through the walls themselves, working in shifts and our ‘holes’ are more like jagged doorways.
No.10 was the field hospital and here, represented by dummies and holograms, are the cramped bodies of wounded Volunteers and the British soldier rescued by George Plunkett. The woman of the house is trying to prepare food for the fighters.
Through a few unshuttered windows, we can see the busy street market below us going about its business, apparently oblivious of our passage above them. But then, thousands of tour groups have gone through here over the decades. The weather being fine, the transparent roof covering the street is withdrawn and through the double glazing of the houses one can just barely hear the street traders calling out their wares and prices.
We pass through those hallowed rooms, listening to ghosts. Here and there a hologram appears and speaks, echoes of the past. Dummies dressed in the uniforms of the Irish Citizen Army, the Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, Na Fianna and Hibernian Rifles are on display here and there. Imitation Mausers and Parabellums and Martinis, each one carefully made and to the same weight as the original, are there. They are security-chained but we know people are free to pick them up and feel the weight, as a couple of children do, to imagine carrying and firing one. But not to be flash-photographed, which is not permitted here.
Replica Cumann na mBan medical kits are on display, open so one could inspect the contents. The houses also have period furniture, fireplaces, beds …. chamber pots …. kitchens with utensils … bedrooms …..
There are dummies dressed too in civilian clothes of the time typical of that area — women, men, children (even the dog fed by Tom Crimmins, the last Volunteer to leave Moore St.).
Here are some Volunteers breaking through a wall; over there, exhausted Volunteers sleeping
We see magnified historical newspaper headlines, photos, badges and medals. A map of Dublin with fighting locations flashing on them, some of them going out as they fall, the dates appearing above them to show when that happened. But many were only surrendered on receipt of the order from Pearse or Connolly.
Snatches of poetry, of song come to us as we cross from room to room, from house to house, some of it nationalist, some traditional or folk, some even music hall from the era. And for our eyes, the holograms of the Proclamation, the portraits of the executed 16 and many others who fought and died or who survived, flags, the Tricolour, the Irish Republic, the green-and-gold Starry Plough, waving in the wind above Clery’s ….
Half-way along the terrace we come to the historical discussion between the leaders, creatively reconstructed on the basis of some witness statements. Pearse wishing to surrender to avoid further loss of civilian life (the names of the dead civilians in Moore Street, their ages and the manner of their dying appearing above him), Clarke arguing, a sob in his voice, Connolly saying maybe they should wait for Sean McLoughlin to get back (he is out preparing a diversion attack to allow a breakout) …. Then the arguments with some of the other Volunteers, Mac Diarmada having to use all his powers of persuasion.
Oh, such emotion in such short discussions! Then the decision, and Elizabeth O’Farrell volunteering to go with the white flag to open negotiations with the enemy …. even though civilian men and women have already been shot in died in that street, including one beneath a white flag.
Shortly afterwards, the faces of the dead civilians and Volunteers appear, then the sixteen executed come into view, suspended in the air in front and a little above us. We stand there while passages are read out from their trials, letters from their condemned cells, words to relatives …. Then the dates appear above them and we hear the fusillades as by one their faces blink out, until finally only Casement remains, the image of the gallows and then he too is gone. All is dark for a moment, then all sixteen faces appear again, over a background of the three flags of the Rising, with a list of the fallen rank-and-file, to a swelling chorus of The Soldiers’ Song, in English and in Irish.
At the end of the Terrace, we descend again, somewhat dazed and here view the O’Rahilly monument plaque and in our earphones hear the words of his final letter to his wife read out – he wrote it as he lay dying from a number of bullet wounds. I found my eyes moistening again as they had several times during the tour and some of the others were visibly crying – including other foreign tourists.
The end of our tour lay ahead, through the underground tunnel under Parnell Street to the Rotunda. There the Volunteers had been publicly launched and recruited in 1913 and there too, in 1916, the GPO/ Moore Street garrison had been kept prisoners without food and water or toilet, some for two days, while political colonial police came down to identify whomsoever they could from among the prisoners. Here Tom Clarke had been cruelly stripped by his captors, diagonally across the road from one of his two tobacconist shops, on the corner of Parnell and O’Connell Streets. Elizabeth Farrell had been kept prisoner in that shop too by the British, before being escorted to deliver the surrender order to a number of garrisons.
In between the shop and the Rotunda stands the Parnell Monument, as it did then, honouring “the uncrowned King of Ireland”, who had tried by mostly parliamentary means, two decades earlier, to bring about Home Rule for Ireland and had failed. British officers had been photographed in front of the monument with the “Irish Republic” flag held upside down – had they been entirely conscious of the irony?
Directly across the road from us stands a historic building too – the premises of the Irish Land League and where the Irish Ladies Land League had been formed and also raided by the police.
Now the recordings in our earphones ask us to remove our earphones and to hand them to our guide, also to listen for a moment after she has collected them. Having gathered the sets and put them away in her bag, Pela asks us all to give a moment’s thoughts to the men and women and children, particularly of the years each side of the centenary year of the Rising, 2016, who had campaigned to preserve this monument for future generations. Pela tells us that her own grandmother had been one of the activists.
Incredible though it may now seem, the whole terrace except for four houses had been about to be demolished to make way for a shopping centre, which would also have swallowed up the street market. It had taken a determined campaign and occupations of buildings with people prepared to face imprisonment to protect it for our generation and others to come. The State of those years had little interest in history and much in facilitating speculators.
Pela invited us to applaud the campaigners, which we did, enthusiastically. She then asked us to turn around and view the reconstructed building we had left. There was a plaque on the wall there “Dedicated to the memory of the men, women, girls and boys of the early 21st Century ……” In bronze bas-relief, the plaque’s image depicts 16 houses in a terrace with activists on the scaffolding erected by those who intended demolition, with a chain of people of all ages holding hands around the site and in one corner, a campaign table surrounded by people apparently signing a petition.
Once through the underpass and inside the Rotunda building, the tour officially over, we thanked our guide and made for the Republican Café. I found we couldn’t say much, as my mind was half back in 1916. My companion was quiet too as were some other from our tour but some of the children seemed unaffected, brightly debating what to choose from the menu in the Rotunda café, or what souvenir they fancied from those on display.
We took a program of events, including film showings, lectures, dramatic representations and music and poetry performances, in order to choose which to attend later. There’s also a Moore Street and Dublin Street Traders’ Museum in the Rotunda which we intend to visit, perhaps tomorrow, after some shopping in the existing ancient street market.
Some of our tour group, we could hear, including the indefatigable man in the wheelchair, were going on the short walk up to the Remembrance Garden and we heard mention also of the Writers’ Museum and the Hugh Lane Gallery adjacent to the Garden.
We’d had enough for one day, however – we were full. It was truly an unforgettable experience and I knew that for me and probably for my companion, it was something that would remain forever alive in our memories.”
Introduction: Earlier this year I sent my personal recommendations for the conservation and appropriate development of the Moore Street Quarter to the Minster of Heritage’s Consultative Group on Moore Street. Given that Group had been chosen by the Minister who has fought against the conservation of the quarter and denied it is a historic battleground and that she has appealed the judgement of the High Court Judge who ruled against her, I did not expect great things from this group. When membership of the group was refused to important participants in the campaign such as the National Graves Association, the Save Moore Street from Demolition campaign and the Save Moore Street 2016 campaign, my cynicism was further justified. However, “let them not be able to say that campaigners did not supply them with our opinions” is what I think and so I contributed to a number of group submissions and then presented my own. Two parts of this I have already published here
and I have skipped ahead of some to other sections to publish this, the recommendations at the end of my submission.
CONCRETE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE MOORE STREET QUARTER
In consultation with campaigners, street traders, the public, small shopkeepers, local residents, historians, architects and elected representatives: Save, Restore, Rebuild, Improve.
The whole area should be pedestrianised with the usual access exemptions for deliveries within certain hours, emergency services etc.
Buildings of the 1916 period in the Quarter should be preserved
All other buildings in the quarter should be preserved, renovated or reconstructed as necessary to appearance appropriate to the period and area (and appropriate to their current use – I am not advocating the building of public outside toilets or slaughterhouses)
The upper floor of the 1916 Terrace should be developed into a 1916 history experience, integrated with the GPO and the Evacuation Route, with disabled access
and the history being ‘social’ (i.e. how people lived) as well as a ‘political’ (about 1916)
The Evacuation Route should be conserved and appropriately renovated where necessary, with important events marked by plaques, panels and murals along its route
The Evacuation Route should be brought back to the period cobbles and kept clear of rubbish or graffiti with disabled access
Moore Lane and O’Rahilly Parade should be brought back to original cobbles with disabled access
The Moore Street Market should be valued and promoted
Petty official harassment of traders and small businesses should cease and appropriate expansion and regulations eased to assist in more varied use of the market
The traders should be provided with toilets, nearby water supply ports, heating and lighting for stalls
The whole street market should be provided with retractable transparent roof and sliding doors at each end
The street market should be made available as a “farmers’ market” on Sundays
The Historical Quarter and Cultural Quarter should be linked informationally
and with and underground pedestrian way connecting the two under Parnell Street
The development should take place in the context of upgrading the area as a history, culture and leisure area, most of it accessible by day and night
The part of Moore Street not currently part of the Barrett judgement should be included in the overall plan
The State should investigate the potential of applying for World Heritage Status, consulting widely and publishing its recommendations
Also for conservation within a European framework (some aspects of Horizon 2020 may be useful in this respect)
In order to do all this, a first priority is to formally urge the Minister to drop the appeal and I submit that the Consultative Group should do exactly that.
Develop a democratic, open and transparent partnership process to oversee the development, with representation for all stakeholders, including street traders and local small businesses, nearby residents, historians, campaigners (including activists currently excluded from the Consultative Group), historians ….