BOBBY SANDS COMMEMORATION : IRELAND’S TWENTY-TWO REPUBLICAN HUNGER-STRIKERS TO BE COMMEMORATED IN DUBLIN ON SATURDAY 2ND MAY 2015.
Between the years 1917 and 1981 , twenty-two Irish men died on hunger-strike in our on-going fight for Irish freedom :
Thomas Ashe, Kerry, 5 days, 25th September 1917(force fed by tube , died as a result).
Terence McSwiney, Cork, 74 days, 25th October 1920.
Michael Fitzgerald, Cork, 67 days, 17th October 1920.
Joseph Murphy, Cork, 76 days, 25th October 1920.
Joe Witty, Wexford, 2nd September 1923.
Dennis Barry, Cork, 34 days, 20th November 1923.
Andy O Sullivan, Cork, 40 days, 22nd November 1923.
Tony Darcy, Galway, 52 days, 16th April 1940.
Jack ‘Sean’ McNeela, Mayo, 55 days, 19th April 1940.
Sean McCaughey, Tyrone,22 days, 11th May 1946 (hunger and thirst strike).
Michael Gaughan, Mayo, 64 days, 3rd June 1974.
Frank Stagg, Mayo, 62 days, 12th February 1976.
Bobby Sands, Belfast, 66 days, 5th May 1981.
Frank Hughes, Bellaghy (Derry), 59 days, 12th May 1981.
Raymond McCreesh, South Armagh, 61 days, 21st May 1981.
Patsy O Hara, Derry, 61 days, 21st May 1981.
Joe McDonnell, Belfast, 61 days, 8th July 1981.
Martin Hurson, Tyrone, 46 days, 13th July 1981.
Kevin Lynch, Dungiven (Derry), 71 days, 1st August 1981.
Kieran Doherty, Belfast, 73 days, 2nd August 1981.
Tom McIlwee, Bellaghy (Derry), 62 days, 8th August 1981.
Micky Devine, Derry, 60 days, 20th August 1981.
The sectarian realities of ghetto life materialised early in Bobby’s life when at the age of ten his family were forced to move home owing to loyalist intimidation even as early as 1962. Bobby recalled his mother speaking of the troubled times which occurred during her childhood; “Although I never really understood what internment was or who the ‘Specials’ were, I grew to regard them as symbols of evil…” , Bobby was later to say. Of this time Bobby himself later wrote: “I was only a working-class boy from a nationalist ghetto, but it is repression that creates the revolutionary spirit of freedom. I shall not settle until I achieve liberation of my country, until Ireland becomes a sovereign, independent socialist republic…” The fight for the same Cause that Bobby Sands died for in 1981 is on-going today, as six Irish counties remain under the jurisdictional control of Westminster, which enforces that control with military occupation. A commemoration will be held in Dublin in honour of Bobby Sands, the thirteenth republican to die on hunger-strike since 1917: those attending this commemoration are asked to assemble at 2pm on Saturday May 2nd, 2015, on the traffic isle facing the GPO in O’Connell Street, Dublin.
THE PRICE OF PEACE……
Last month, 28 women who protested peacefully in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, against US President Ronald Reagan’s visit to Ireland received £1000 each arising from their action for wrongful arrest. Gene Kerrigan recalls the weekend when another State determined Irish security requirements and details the garda action which could cost tens of thousands of pounds. From ‘Magill’ magazine, May 1987.
At around 5am the number of women dwindled further, to about 40. They were waking up, moving to shelter under the trees, trying to keep themselves warm and amused. They staged a ‘Miss Phoenix Park’ contest, which was won by a woman wearing a black plastic rubbish sack and two odd wellies. They also played leap-frog and staged a sack race using survival bags.
The garda vans were assembled beside the US Ambassador’s residence. It was now about 7am. The women began to walk in a circle as the garda vans moved in on them across the grass. More than one woman mentioned that it was like a movie scene as about eight garda vans and at least 100 gardaí surrounded them, van doors opening and gardaí spilling out of them. The circle broke and the women began walking towards the gardaí , but about ten of the women stood aside from all of this. As far as everyone knew this was just another eviction and it had been agreed beforehand that some of the women would stand aside and look after the belongings left under the trees.
As the gardaí and the women came closer the women broke into groups of about five, holding hands or linking arms, and singing. There was a garda in a light blue uniform saying something or trying to say something but he couldn’t be clearly heard above the singing. A garda grabbed a woman and she slumped to the ground and lay there. There was no resistance to being arrested, just non-cooperation, bodies becoming deadweight. (MORE LATER).
THE NEW IRA IS YOUNGER, MORE RADICAL AND HAS SEEN LITTLE OF LIFE OTHER THAN VIOLENCE….. By Ed Moloney. From ‘Magill’ magazine, September 1980.
While the IRA has, thanks to that sort of ingenuity and the re-organisation, made a considerable comeback since 1977, the organisation and its campaign of death and destruction has at the same time been limited effectively to three of its eight operational areas : Belfast, South Armagh and East Tyrone. Even so the level of activity in those areas has also declined.
In Belfast for instance there were 109 bombing attacks and 51 ambushes and gun attacks on the RUC, British Army or other British security force personnel during 1977. In 1978, that had declined to 101 bombings and 29 shootings and, in 1979, to only 39 bombing attacks and 20 gun attacks. This year seems to be keeping in line with that, at 13 bombings and II gun attacks.
In East Tyrone it has been much the same story- 22 bombing attacks in 1977 and 9 gun attacks. In 1978 there was a rise to 36 bombings and a fall to 7 gun attacks and in 1979 there was a drop to 18 bombings but a rise to 13 shootings, aimed at the British security forces. South Armagh IRA units on the other hand display all the characteristics of classic guerrilla fighters. Very few incidents occur in South Armagh, compared to areas like Belfast, but those that are carried out have been devastatingly effective. In 1977 there were only 5 bombings and 7 shootings directed at the security forces, a low level of activity that was caused by increased SAS activity in the area. (MORE LATER).
ON THIS DATE (15TH APRIL) 167 YEARS AGO : PRESENTATION OF NEW IRISH FLAG.
‘Does the world even have heroes like Ireland’s Thomas Francis Meagher anymore? After fighting for Irish independence (“I know of no country that has won its independence by accident”) ,then condemned to death, pardoned and exiled, Thomas Francis Meagher escaped to America,where he became a leader of the Irish community and commanded the Irish Brigade during the Civil War. General Meagher’s men fought valiantly at some of the most famous battles of the Civil War,including Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. After the war, Meagher served as Acting Governor of the Montana Territory. In 1867, Meagher disappeared on the Missouri River ;his body was never found…’ (from the poster, pictured, left, sourced here.)
The defining day of the The Battle of Antietam/Battle of Sharpsburg was September 17th, 1862, which was the bloodiest day of not only the American Civil War but the bloodiest single day in all of American history. The battle took place between the town of Sharpsburg in Maryland and Antietam Creek, and it ended General Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of a northern state, and was the first major battle in the American Civil War to take place on Union soil. The combined tally of dead, wounded, and missing stands at 22,717 soldiers of which the Irish Brigade, under the command of Brigadier General Thomas Francis Meagher, who recruited soldiers from among Irish immigrants for the Union side, lost over 60% of its men in an area that came to be known as ‘Bloody Lane’. We have previously mentioned Meagher’s involvement in the Irish struggle on this blog (here and here , for instance) but, before he left these shores for America, he unveiled an Irish flag (which he had based on the French Tricolour) in his native city, Waterford, on the 7th March 1848, outside the Wolfe Tone Confederate Club.
On this date (15th April) in 1848 – 167 years ago – on Abbey Street, in Dublin, he presented the flag to Irish citizens on behalf of himself and the ‘Young Ireland’ movement, with the following words : “I trust that the old country will not refuse this symbol of a new life from one of her youngest children. I need not explain its meaning. The quick and passionate intellect of the generation now springing into arms will catch it at a glance. The white in the centre signifies a lasting truce between the ‘orange’ and the ‘green’ and I trust that beneath its folds, the hands of the Irish Protestant and the Irish Catholic may be clasped in generous and heroic brotherhood…”
He was arrested by the British for his part in the 1848 Rising ,accused of ‘high treason’ and sentenced to death (‘…to be hanged, drawn and disemboweled..’) but, while he was awaiting execution in Richmond Jail, this was changed by ‘Royal Command’ to transportation for life and in July 1849, at only 26 years of age, he was transported from Dun Laoghaire on the S.S. Swift to Tasmania. Before he was deported, he spoke about the country and the flag he was leaving behind – “Daniel O’Connell preached a cause that we are bound to see out. He used to say ‘I may not see what I have labored ,I am an old ,my arm is withered, no epitaph of victory may mark my ,but I see a young generation with redder blood in their veins, and they will do the work.’ Therefore it is that I ambition to decorate these hills with the flag of my country….”
In Tasmania he was considered, and rightly so, to be a political prisoner (a ‘Ticket of Leave’ inmate) which meant he could build his own ‘cell’ on a designated piece of land that he could farm provided he donated an agreed number of hours each week for State use. In early 1852, Thomas Francis Meagher escaped and made his way to New Haven, in Connecticut, in America, and travelled from there to a hero’s welcome in New York. This fine orator, newspaper writer, lawyer, revolutionary, Irish POW, soldier in the American civil war and acting Governor of Montana died on the 1st of July, 1867, at 44 years of age. Asked about his ‘crimes’, he replied – “Judged by the law of England, I know this ‘crime’ entails upon me the penalty of death ; but the history of Ireland explains that ‘crime’ and justifies it.” And the reasons for such ‘crimimal acts’ still exist to this day.
ON THIS DATE (15TH APRIL) 175 YEARS AGO : ‘LOYAL’ (BUT ‘PRO-IRISH’!) ASSOCIATION FOUNDED.
On April 15th, 1840, Daniel O’Connell launched the ‘Loyal National Repeal Association’ (as it called itself from 1841 onwards – at its inception it was simply known as ‘The Repeal Association’ : O’Connell was back-tracking with the name-change, all but apologising to the British for asking them to ‘tweak’ the system a little more in favour of the Irish) but he made it clear that it was his desire that Ireland should remain under the British ‘Monarchy’ saying, if you like – ‘…stay if you want , just treat us better.’ The only force to be used, he stated , was “moral force” ; but even this was too much of a demand for Westminster – ‘Sir’ Robert Peel (the British PM) replied that to ‘grant’ O’Connell his way “…would not merely mean the repeal of an Act of (British) Parliament, but dismemberment of a great Empire. Deprecating as I do all war but above all, civil war, yet there is no alternative which I do not think preferable to the dismemberment of Empire….”
A group within the ‘Loyal National Repeal Association’ supported Daniel O’Connell in his endeavours but were not convinced that “moral force” alone would win the day ; they were the ‘Young Irelanders’, and they viewed their leader “…with a mixture of affection and impatience…” In 1842, ‘The Young Irelanders’ established a newspaper called ‘The Nation’, in which they supported the objectives of the ‘Repeal’ Movement. The newspaper, under the control of 26 years-young Charles Gavan Duffy, supported Daniel O’Connell in his quest to publicise the ‘Repeal’ Movement, and helped to organise and promote outdoor meetings (known as ‘Monster Meetings’) at which the objectives of the ‘Repeal’ Movement could be advanced. The year 1843 was promoted as ‘The Year of Repeal’, and Daniel O’Connell took his message to the people ; in Mullingar, County Westmeath, for instance, he addressed a crowd of approximately 150,000 people. The British ‘authorities’ were watching these developments with interest and, while no doubt regarding the ‘Loyal’ Daniel O’Connell as no more than a ‘rebel pet’, were presumably more worried by the fact that the huge crowds he drew would be susceptible to the less ‘loyal’ message coming from ‘The Young Irelanders’. After the Mullingar ‘Monster Meeting ‘ , which was viewed as a tremendous success by the organisers, ‘The Nation’ newspaper helped to publicise another such meeting – this time in Mallow, County Cork : 400,000 people turned up – the British were uneasy.
A third ‘Monster Meeting’ was held in Lismore, County Waterford – again, a crowd estimated at 400,000 people attended. At each meeting, the ‘Young Irelanders’ were recruiting, having made their position clear in the pages of their newspaper, ‘The Nation’, in leaflets, and by word of mouth – ie ‘we get back whatever we can by O’Connell’s methods, but will not confine ourselves to those methods alone…’ The British were perplexed at what to do regarding the ‘Monster Meetings’ – were they a ‘safety valve’ at which the ‘agitators/rebels’ could let off steam in a more-or-less harmless fashion, or were they a possible recruiting exercise at which the more militant element could ‘plot and plan’? However, after the 15th August 1843 ‘Monster Meeting’ in Tara, County Meath, the British decided to take action. The ‘Young Irelanders’ newspaper, ‘The Nation’, put the figure for those in attendance at the Hill of Tara ‘Monster Meeting’ at three-quarters of a million people “…without fear of exaggeration..” ; Daniel O’Connell himself claimed it was at least one-and-a-half million people, while another newspaper of the day (‘The Times’?) reported – “The whole district was covered with men. The population within a days march began to arrive on foot shortly after daybreak and continued to arrive, on all sides and by every available approach, ’till noon. It was impossible from any one point to see the entire meeting. The number is supposed to have reached between 500,000 and 700,000 persons….” . Other reports stated that O’Connell’s marshals were on horseback, that the crowds arrived on foot and in carriages, banners were present, as were bands and groups in “historic fancy dress”. Indeed, archaeologists have found human bones on the site, some of which are said to be 4000 years old, and traces of wooden platforms, bits of clay pipes and, of course (!), whiskey bottles, dating back to the mid-19th century. On that day in Irish history, Daniel O’Connell addressed a sea of people –
“We are at Tara of the Kings – the spot from which emanated the social power, the legal authority, the right to dominion over the furthest extremes of the land….the strength and majority of the National Movement was never exhibited so imposingly as at this great meeting. The numbers exceed any that ever before congregated in Ireland in peace or war. It is a sight not grand alone but appalling – not exciting merely pride, but fear. Step by step, we are approaching the great goal of Repeal of the Union, but it is at length with the strides of a giant…” Again, it must be stressed that Daniel O’Connell would use only “moral force” to achieve what he termed ‘repeal of the Union’ and, even then, favoured the island of Ireland remaining as a unit governed by the British ‘Monarchy’ – a ‘new’ coat of varnish on rotten timber. O’Connell could ‘talk the talk’ but the British were fearful that he was encouraging others to ‘walk the walk’.
The ‘Monster Meetings’ were a great success – despite all the “misfortunes” (as the British would have it) that the Irish people were suffering in their daily lives ; the desire, the demand, for a British withdrawal had not gone away. And, as stated here a few paragraphs back, after the Tara ‘Monster Meeting’ (15th August 1843) the British decided it just wasn’t cricket : enough was enough. A ‘Monster Meeting’ planned for Clontarf, in Dublin, which was to take place on Sunday, 8th October, 1843, was banned by the British authorities on Saturday, 7th October 1843 – the day before the event was due to take place ; Daniel O’Connell and others in the leadership of ‘The Loyal National Repeal Association’ quickly lodged a complaint. Daniel O’Connell protested at the banning, as did his colleagues in the leadership of the ‘Association’ – they were later to be arrested by the British and sentenced to a year in prison for ‘conspiracy’, but this judgement was then reversed in the ‘British House of Lords’. When, on that Saturday, the 7th of October 1843, O’Connell noticed that posters were being put-up in Dublin by the British ‘authorities’ stating that the following days meeting had been banned, he backed down ; in this scribblers opinion he should have ‘stuck to his guns’ and ignored the British ‘writ’ – he should have went ahead with the Clontarf ‘Monster Meeting’ therby ‘putting it up’ to the British but…”moral force only” won the day ; O’Connell issued his own poster that same day (ie Saturday 7th October 1843) as well as spreading the word through the ‘grapevine’ that the meeting was cancelled. That poster makes for interesting reading –
WHEREAS there has appeared, under the Signatures of “E.B. SUGDEN, C DONOUGHMORE, ELIOT F BLACKBURN, E. BLAKENEY, FRED SHAW, T.B.C. SMITH, a paper being, or purporting to be, a PROCLAMATION, drawn up in very loose and inaccurate terms, and manifestly misrepresenting known facts ; the objects of which appear to be, to prevent the PUBLIC MEETING, intended to be held TO-MORROW, the 8th instant, at CLONTARF, TO PETITION PARLIAMENT for the REPEAL of the baleful and destructive measure of the LEGISLATIVE UNION.
AND WHEREAS, such Proclamation has not appeared until LATE IN THE AFTERNOON OF THIS SATURDAY, THE 7th, so that it is utterly impossible that the knowledge of its existence could be communicated in the usual Official Channels, or by the Post, in time to have its contents known to the Persons intending to meet at CLONTARF, for the purpose of Petitioning , as aforesaid, whereby ill-disposed Persons may have an opportunity, under cover of said Proclamation, to provoke Breaches of the Peace, or to commit Violence on Persons intending to proceed peaceably and legally to the said Meeting . WE, therefore, the COMMITTEE of the LOYAL NATIONAL REPEAL ASSOCIATION, do most earnestly request and entreat, that all well-disposed persons will, IMMEDIATELY on receiving this intimation, repair to their own dwellings, and not place themselves in peril of any collision, or of receiving any ill-treatment whatsoever. And we do further inform all such persons, that without yielding in any thing to the unfounded allegations in said alleged Proclamation, we deem it prudent and wise, and above all things humane, to declare that said MEETING IS ABANDONED, AND IS NOT TO BE HELD.
SIGNED BY ORDER,
CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE. T. M. RAY, Secretary.
SATURDAY, 7th OCTOBER, 1843. 3 O ‘CLOCK P.M.
RESOLVED – That the above Cautionary Notice be immediately transmitted by Express to the Very Reverend and Reverend Gentlemen who signed the Requisition for the CLONTARF MEETING, and to all adjacent Districts, SO AS TO PREVENT the influx of Persons coming to the intended Meeting.
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.
Browne,Printer, 36 Nassau Street.
The British had put pressure on their ‘rebel pet’, O’Connell, to enforce their ban, and had ordered a number of gunboats and land-based artillery pieces to train their weapons on the Clontarf area. Daniel O’Connell was aware that thousands of people would already be on their way to the Clontarf meeting (some having left their homes on the Friday, or earlier, for the walk to Dublin) so he sent his marshals out from Dublin on horseback, urging the crowds to return home : it was that or challenge Westminster, but that wasn’t an option, as far as he was concerned.
O’Connell and his ‘Loyal Association’ had painted themselves into a corner ; they fell into a trap of their own making. He had publicly and repeatedly vowed to work “within the law” (ie British ‘law’) which could have at any time been used, as it eventually was, to ban his agitation and he had vehemently ruled out the use of force in any circumstances in challenging the British. One of the results of the decision by Daniel O’Connell to cancel the Clontarf ‘Monster Meeting’ was that the public lost faith in him and in the ‘Loyal National Repeal Association’ ; when he realised that he had lost that support, he expressed the view that “repeal of the Union” could not be won. The ‘Young Irelanders’ denounced him and the manner in which he had directed the ‘Repeal’ campaign, and stated that his leadership had failed to address the threat “of the decay of Irish culture, language and custom” under British influence. One of the many who left O’Connell’s side to lead the ‘Young Ireland’ Movement, John Mitchel, the son of a Northern Presbyterian Minister, called on the Irish people to strike back against the British – “England! All England, operating through her government : through all her organised and effectual public opinion, press, platform, parliament has done, is doing, and means to do grievous wrongs to Ireland. She must be punished – that punishment will , as I believe, come upon her by and through Ireland ; and so Ireland will be avenged…”
The ‘Loyal National Repeal Association’ managed to limp along for a further four years but when O’Connell died in 1847 it fell into disarray and dissolved itself in 1848 proving, not for the first time in our history, that ‘moral force’ alone , when dealing with a tyrant, will not win the day.
LUFTWAFFE MEMORIAL IN LONDON AND NAZI MEMORIAL IN ISRAEL.
It would be ridiculous if either of the above were to be seriously proposed, and would be viewed as proof of the proposers mental and moral illness, and rightly so. There are many monuments etc throughout the world that locals and/or tourists might object to on grounds of character, setting, function etc and , with ‘one man’s terrorist being another man’s freedom fighter’, perhaps the best rule of thumb is to apply common sense to any such proposed memorial/monument ie don’t do as our headline would suggest.
But common sense by the political establishment in this corrupt State has never been a strong point as they are so enamoured by foreign ‘dignitaries’ that whatever self-respect they may have had quickly evaporates in their rush to share center-stage with their hero (here and here, for example). And so it continues – ‘The relatives of some of the British soldiers who fought and died during the Easter Rising in 1916 have called for a permanent memorial to their dead to be erected in Dublin…’ – a ridiculous proposal, of course, but one which the weak-willed political establishment here would gladly take on board, to show how politically ‘mature’ they are and, if proceeded with, could also test their mettle with a brush and shovel.
EVERYBODY NEEDS GOOD NEIGHBOURS!
I live in Clondalkin, Dublin, and I want to take this opportunity to introduce you to two of my near-neighbours, who just happen to live next door to each other in Clondalkin (well, practically – house number 55 keeps them apart!) : Pat and Brian.
This is Pat (Rabbitte) (pictured, left) , photographed for an interview he done with the local ‘Clondalkin Echo’ newspaper in April 2011 (for the truth about this State’s oil and gas fields, click here) . He was State Minister for Energy and Natural Resources at the time. Pat believes that the State broadcaster, RTE, is deliberately attempting to portray the double-taxation entity that is ‘Irish Water’ in a bad light – ‘In a speech in the private members debate on Irish Water, he said that if he did not know better, he would conclude that the “lopsided” coverage of the water issue derives from a decision of the RTÉ Board to strangle Irish Water at birth…’ This from the man who once boasted that he had “led the successful campaign against the water charges…” Pat lives in number 56 Monastery Drive, in Clondalkin.
This is Pat’s (near-)neighbour, Brian (McKeown), who was appointed to the Board of ‘Irish Water’ in November 2013. Brian used to work for Dublin County Council and then moved to Dublin City Council, both jobs in which he would have met a lot of politicians. He retired from the former in 2011, which no doubt allowed him more time for family and friends. And neighbours. He lives in number 54 Monastery Drive, in Clondalkin.
I hope both men like their new neighbours, even if they might not pay twice for the one service and, speaking of which, those of us who refuse to pay twice for a water service will be meeting-up this Saturday, the 18th of April 2015, at 2pm, at the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square in Dublin city centre and we’ll be marching down O’Connell Street to get to Leinster House, where we will hold a ‘Bin the Bill’ protest, at which bills from ‘Irish Water’ will be disposed of in wheelie bins. I’ll be there, but I doubt if Pat or Brian will be!
Thanks for reading, Sharon.