ON THIS DATE (7TH DECEMBER) 137 YEARS AGO : BIRTH OF AN IRA MAN WHO DARED AND SUFFERED – AUSTIN STACK.
Austin Stack (pictured, left) was born on the 7th December, 1879 – 137 years ago on this date – in Ballymullen, Tralee, County Kerry and, at 29 years young, joined the ‘Irish Republican Brotherhood’ (IRB). At the time of the 1916 Rising, he was 37 years of age and was the commandant of the Kerry Brigade of the Irish Volunteers and was arrested, by the British, with Con Collins, on the 21st April that year while planning an attack on Tralee RIC Barracks in an attempt to rescue Roger Casement. He was court-martialed on the 14th June and sentenced to death, but this was commuted to twenty years penal servitude and he was released in the general amnesty of June 1917, and became active in the Irish Volunteers again. He opposed the Treaty of Surrender in 1921 (stating, during the debate on same – “Has any man here the hardihood to stand up and say that it was for this our fathers suffered, that it was for this our comrades have died in the field and in the barrack yard..”) and took part in the subsequent Irish Civil War.
He was captured in 1923 and went on hunger strike for forty-one days before being released in July 1924. When Eamon de Valera founded Fianna Fail in 1926, Stack remained with Sinn Féin and was elected Secretary of that organisation, a position he held until his death. His health was shattered due to the number of prison protests and hunger strikes for political status that he undertook. In the 1918 general election, while a prisoner in Crumlin Road Jail in Belfast, he was elected to represent West Kerry in the First (all-Ireland) Dáil as an abstentionist Sinn Féin Member of Parliament. The British incarcerated him in Strangeways Prison in Manchester, from where he escaped in October 1919 and, during the ‘Black and Tan War’, as Minister for Home Affairs, he organised the republican courts which replaced the British ‘legal’ system in this country. He rejected the Treaty of Surrender in 1921 (stating, during the debate on same – “Has any man here the hardihood to stand up and say that it was for this our fathers suffered, that it was for this our comrades have died in the field and in the barrack yard..”) and, following a short fund-raising/public relations tour of America, returned to Ireland to fight on the republican side in the Civil War.
In the general round-up of Irish republican leaders in April 1923 (during which Liam Lynch was shot dead by Free State troops) Stack, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the rebel forces, was arrested in a farmyard in the Knockmealdown Mountains in County Tipperary – this was four days after Lynch’s death. Imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail in Dublin, he took part in the mass hunger-strike by republican prisoners in October 1923, which was his 5th hunger-strike in 6 years. Shortly after the end of that forty-one day hunger-strike, in November 1923, he was released with hundreds of other political prisoners, and he married his girlfriend, Una Gordon, in 1925. In April 1929, at forty-nine years of age, he entered the Mater Hospital in Dublin for a stomach operation. He never recovered and died two days later, on 27th April 1929. He is buried in the Republican Plot, Glasnevin Cemetery, in Dublin.
A commemorative pamphlet, entitled ‘What Exactly is a Republican?’ was issued in memory of the man – ‘The name republican in Ireland, as used amongst republicans, bears no political meaning. It stands for the devout lover of his country, trying with might and main for his country’s freedom. Such a man cannot be a slave. And if not a slave in heart or in act, he cannot be guilty of the slave vices. No coercion can breed these in the freeman. Fittingly, the question – ‘What is a republican?’ fails to be answered in our memorial number for Austin Stack, a man who bore and dared and suffered, remaining through it all and at the worst, the captain of his own soul. What then was Austin Stack, republican? A great lover of his country. A man without a crooked twist in him. One who thought straight, acted straight, walked the straight road unflinchingly and expected of others that they should walk it with him, as simply as he did himself. No man could say or write of him “He had to do it”. That plea of the slave was not his. His duty, as conscience and love dictated, he did. The force of England, of the English Slave State, might try coercion, as they tried it many times : it made no difference. He went his way, suffered their will, and stood his ground doggedly, smiling now and again. His determination outstood theirs, because it had a deeper foundation and a higher aim. Compromise, submission, the slave marks, did not and could not exist for him as touching himself, or the Cause for which he worked and fought ,lived and died.’
Ireland had lost one of its best soldiers.
PROSE AND CONS.
By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.
Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.
First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O’Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.
YANKEY’S TOWN. (By Kevin Lynch.)
The fucking gardai are fucking keen
to fucking keep it fucking clean
the fucking pig’s a fucking swine
who fucking draws the fucking line
at fucking fun and fucking games
the fucking kid’s he fucking blames
are everywhere to be fucking found
anywhere in YANKEY’S TOWN.
The fucking scene is fucking mad
the fucking news is fucking sad
the fucking gear is fucking dirt
the fucking hash is fucking worse
the fucking people are fucking gas
they really make me fucking laugh
it fucking hurts to look around
every where in YANKEY’S TOWN.
The fucking train is fucking late
you fucking wait and fucking wait
you’re fucking lost and fucking found
stuck in fucking YANKEY’S TOWN.
The fucking view is fucking cat
for fucking miles and fucking miles
the fucking babies fucking cry
the fucking flowers fucking die
the fucking food is fucking muck
the fucking drains are fucking fucked
the colour scheme is fucking brown
every where in YANKEY’S TOWN.
The fucking parties are fucking full
of fucking birds and fucking blokes
with fucking murder in their minds
a fucking bloke is fucking stabbed
waiting for a fucking cab
you fucking stay at fucking home
the fucking neighbours fucking moan
keep the fucking music down
this is fucking YANKEY’S TOWN.
The fucking cars are fucking fast
the fucking lads are fucking out
fucking harpo is about
the fucking fish is fucking old
the fucking chips are fucking cold
the fucking beer is fucking flat
the fucking gaffs have fucking rats
the fucking clocks are fucking wrong
the fucking days are fucking long
and it fucking gets you fucking down
that is fucking YANKEY’S TOWN!
(Next – ‘Sister Caoimhín’ , by Kevin Lynch.)
ON THIS DATE (7TH DECEMBER) 1,495 YEARS AGO : BIRTH OF AN IRISH SAINT AND SOLDIER.
St. Columcille (aka ‘St. Columba’) is an Irish saint, monk and soldier who was born on the 7th December, 521 AD in Gartan, County Donegal – 1,495 years ago on this date – and is perhaps best known for his ‘Book Battle’ and for being responsible for a mass hunger strike in Ireland. Embarking on such a protest is part of a very ancient Irish tradition (although it might appear to be the case that James Connolly was the first to use it in 1913 as tool of political protest in 20th century Ireland) – fasting as a means of asserting one’s rights when faced with no other means of obtaining redress is something that has been embedded in Irish culture from ancient times. Even when the ancient Irish law system, the Laws of the Fénechus, which we popularly called the ‘Brehon Laws’ from the word breitheamh (a ‘judge’), were first codified in AD 438, the law relating to the troscad (‘hunger strike’), was ancient.
The hunger striker gave notice of their intent and, according to the law tract Di Chetharslicht Athgabhála, if the person who is being fasted against does not come to arbitration and actually allows the protester to die, then the moral judgement went against them and they endured shame and contempt until they made recompense to the family of the dead person. If they failed to make such amends, they were not only damned by society but damned in the next world. They were held to be without honour and without morality.
The ancient Irish texts are full of examples of people fasting to assert their rights and shame powerful enemies into accepting their moral obligations. St Patrick is recorded to have done so according to the ‘Tripartite Life of St Patrick’ and, in the ‘Life of St Ailbe’, we found St Lugid and St Salchin carrying out ritual fasts to protest.
King Conall Dearg of Connacht fasted when he found his rights infringed, and the entire population of Leinster is said to have fasted against St Colmcille when he rode roughshod over their rights. The poet Mairgen mac Amalgado mac Mael Ruain of the Deisi fasted against another poet Finguine over an act of perceived injustice. The troscad continued in Irish law throughout the centuries until the English conquests proscribed the native law system and foisted English law on Ireland through a series of Acts between 1587 and 1613. Nevertheless, individual fasts against the cruelties of the English colonial administration are recorded several times over the subsequent years.
Saint Columcille (‘Columba’), ‘credited’ (!) with spreading Christianity in what is today Scotland, died aged 76, in Iona, Scotland and, much like the ‘Holy Men’ of today, was not shy in claiming that (his) God was on his side –
‘O God, wilt thou not drive off the fog,
which envelopes our number,
the host which has deprived us of our livelihood,
the host which proceeds around the carns!
He is a son of storm who betrays us.
My Druid, he will not refuse me,
is the Son of God, and may he side with me;
How grandly he bears his course,
the steed of Baedan before the host;
Power by Baedan of the yellow hair
will be borne from Ireland on him the steed.’
TRADE UNIONS AND CAPITALISM IN IRELAND….
The role of the trade union movement in Ireland in relation to the continued imperialist occupation of the North and to the foreign multi-national domination of the Irish economy – both north and south – remains an area of confusion for many people. John Doyle examines the economic policy of the ‘Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ (ICTU) and the general failure of the official Labour movement to advance the cause of the Irish working class, except in terms of extremely limited gains. From ‘Iris’ magazine, November 1982.
The inevitable consequence for Irish workers, within an economy where the industrial base has expanded extremely artificially with over-weighted multi-national investment compared with ‘home’ industries, is that when the system turns nasty the political lessons which have not been learned will have to be learned in a far more vicious social classroom.
Given that the ICTU confines itself purely to economic and limited social demands, its recent track record is worthy of examination. In the late 1950’s and 1960’s capitalism in Ireland developed in a new way – the hitherto protectionist economic policies of the Free State were gradually abandoned, and following the Whitaker report (1958) and Seán Lemass’s pro-American speech at the Fianna Fail ard fheis of 1962, the 26-counties were drawn increasingly under the shadows of international, not just British, industrial exploitation.
‘Open Door’ economic policies operated under both the Stormont and Leinster House regimes, coupled with the ‘re-unification’ of the unions under the aegis of ICTU in 1959 and the growing ‘respectability’ of trade unions, led to the expansion of the industrial base by multi-nationals and to a rapid increase in the size of the industrial working class, who for the first time represented the largest section of employment. (MORE LATER).
GROWING UP IN LONG KESH…
SIN SCÉAL EILE.
By Jim McCann (Jean’s son). For Alex Crowe, RIP – “No Probablum”. Glandore Publishing, 1999.
Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the ‘Frank Cahill Resource Centre’, one of the founders of ‘Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh’, the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A’Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.
His first publication last year by Glandore was ‘And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh’. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!
A group of six or so of us were standing looking on at the ‘German sit-com’ that was unfolding in front of us, when the prison screws suddenly became aware of our presence again, and one of them looked over at us. He seemed uncomfortable by our presence and said – “These fuckin’ Germans over here stealing out of our shops and they can’t even speak the lingo, typical eh?” “Maybe I can help you with your predicament”, interjected a comrade called Seán, from Andersontown. “Can you speak any German, Mucker?” asked the screw. We looked at Seán in disbelief – “Is there something wrong with your head?”, he was asked.
“Look”, said Seán, “these screws have a job to do and it’s hard enough without having to deal with or having to contend with situations like this,” he said, as he winked at us. He walked over to the two Germans and said “Vas ist…” – the rest was unprintable. Because it was a German-sounding gibberish!
The talkative Germans knew exactly what was happening and embarked on this German diatribe which lasted about three minutes. While this was going on, Seán nodded knowingly and threw in a few ‘ja’s’ and ‘neins’. I don’t know about the screws but we were very impressed – now and again, Seán would stop the Germans’ flow with a question in German that always seemed to be the same question, which started with “Vas ist…” . One of the screws stood scratching his head while the other, who had no real interest in the proceedings, stood scratching his arse. “Jesus Christ, c’mon,” said the head-scratcher, “we’re going to be here all day. What in the name of Jesus are they talking about?” Seán pursed his lips with his finger and shushed the screw then, after about what was only three minutes but seemed like ten, Seán said “Auf wiedersehn” to the Germans and walked back to where we were standing… (MORE LATER).
ON THIS DATE (7TH DECEMBER) 94 YEARS AGO : IRA EXECUTE FREE STATE ARMY BRIGADIER.
Seán Hales (pictured, left),a brigadier in the Free State Army and a Cumann na nGaedhal member of the Leinster House administration, was shot in Dublin on December 7th, 1922 – 94 years ago on this date – as he left a Dublin hotel, having had lunch. The IRA had listed as targets all the elected reps who had voted for ’emergency legislation’ authorising the executions of republicans. His companion, Pádraic Ó Máille, deputy speaker of the Free State parliament, was seriously injured, but still managed to get Hales into the car and drive to the nearest hospital, where he died. British soldiers in the immediate area attempted to engage the two IRA shooters but they made good their escape. Ó Máille was an elected representative for Sinn Féin from 1918 to 1921 and was active in the IRA in the Galway region, but supported the ‘Treaty of Surrender’ in 1921 (he later left Cumann na nGaedhal, attempted to form his own party but then joined Fianna Fáil). Both were, at the time of the shooting, members of the Cumann na nGaedhal party which, in 1933, merged with smaller groups to form the ‘Fine Gael’ party (pictured here, in that same year).
‘The actual killer, the playwright Ulick O’Connor was told in 1985, by Sean Caffrey, an ex-IRA Intelligence officer, was Owen Donnelly, from Glasnevin, “a rather girlish-looking, fair-haired fellow who had been a very good scholar in O’Connell Schools.” “Who ordered him to do it?” I asked. “No one gave him an order,” he said. “At that time the general orders issued by Liam Lynch were for anybody to shoot TDs or Senators if they could.” He was in the main room of the Intelligence Centre when Donnelly came in shortly after the killing, on the afternoon of December 7, 1922. I asked Caffrey what was his reaction when he heard Sean Hales had been killed – “I was delighted,” he said, and then gave a little chuckle, as if reminiscing over something which he particularly enjoyed. “Donnelly was carrying on the fight,” he said. “There are no rules in war. The winner dictates the rules…” ‘ (from here.)
The reaction of the Free State administration was swift and ruthless : they announced their intention to execute four of the republican prisoners being held without charge or trial in Mountjoy jail and, the following morning (December 8th, 1922, at dawn) Dick Barrett, Rory O’Connor, Liam Mellows and Joe McKelvey were summarily executed by firing squad in the yard of Mountjoy jail. The executioneers declared that the four men were executed “…as a reprisal for the assassination of Brigadier Seán Hales and as a solemn warning to those who are associated with them who are engaged in a conspiracy of assassination against the representatives of the Irish people.. (sic)“
The four men were the first of the Free State administration’s executions of it’s former comrades and drew condemnation from, among others, Thomas Johnson, the then leader of the State Labour Party : “Murder most foul as in the best it is – but this (is) most foul, bloody and unnatural. The four men in Mountjoy have been in your charge for five months..the Government of this country (sic) — the Government of Saorstát Eireann, announces apparently with pride that they have taken out four men, who were in their charge as prisoners, and as a reprisal for that assassination, murdered them. I wonder whether any member of the Government who has any regard for the honour of Ireland, or has any regard for the good name of the State, or has any regard for the safety of the State, will stand over an act of this kind…”
One of those who had ‘regard for the honour of Ireland’, at that time, anyway, was Tom Hales, one of Seán’s brothers – Tom was in command of the IRA ‘Flying Column’ which attacked a Free State Army convoy at Béal na Bláth in West Cork on the 22nd August 1922, in which Michael Collins was killed, but he later dishonoured himself by becoming an active and vocal (elected) member of the Fianna Fáil party. If you have a half hour to spare, you could use it wisely by watching this ‘YouTube’ video concerning the Hales brothers and that particular period in our history.
ON THIS DATE (7TH DECEMBER) 75 YEARS AGO : ‘BATBOMB’-IDEA FROM A DENTIST RECEIVED WITH A SMILE!
An unusual ‘On This Date’ piece for us to post, but worthy of a mention, nonetheless – two months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, which occurred on 7th December 1941 – 75 years ago on this date – a dentist named Lytle S. Adams from the town of Irwin, Pennsylvania, wrote to the President of the United States stating that he should be made aware that the Japanese were simply terrified of bats : on 9th February 1942, Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed the letter on to William Donovan with a cover note saying “This man is NOT a nut..”
No one checked out the ‘bat theory’ but, as it transpired, it was untrue. William Donovan, who made a name for himself as ‘Mr. U S Intelligence’, headed the ‘Office of Strategic Services’ (OSS), forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency and, for the next several years, he organised the dropping of bats on Japan – sometimes the bats were just slung out of bombers, other times they were dropped by parachute! When you throw bats out of a plane at high altitude they freeze to death. We can find no record of what the Japanese thought of this carry-on, but wonder if they considered it to be ‘manna from heaven…’!
‘Developed by the United States during World War II, four biological factors gave promise to this plan. First, bats occur in large numbers (four caves in Texas are each occupied by several million bats). Second, bats can carry more than their own weight in flight (females carry their young—sometimes twins). Third, bats hibernate, and while dormant they do not require food or maintenance. Fourth, bats fly in darkness, then find secluded places (often in buildings) to hide during daylight. The plan was to release bat bombs over Japanese cities…’
(from here.) So this ‘Adam’ was not actually the first ‘Batman’, then..!
RAFFLE CAUSING A SPLASH!
…we won’t be posting our usual contribution, and probably won’t be in a position to post anything at all, next Wednesday, 14th December 2016. This coming weekend (Saturday/Sunday 10th/11th) is spoke for already with a 650-ticket raffle to be run for the Cabhair group in a venue on the Dublin/Kildare border (work on which begins on the Tuesday before the actual raffle) and the ‘autopsy’ into same which will take place on Monday evening 12th in a Dublin city centre venue and then it’s straight back to the preparations for the Christmas Swim regarding which, by the way, four heavily-sponsored swimmers have been confirmed, with at least another two expecting to be cleared by the swim committee in the next week or so. We’ll be back on Wednesday 21st December next, with what will probably be our second-last post for 2016. And we’ll wish you a ‘Happy Christmas’ then, and hope that the lads and lassies looked after by Cabhair will have one, too!
Thanks for reading, Sharon.