ON THIS DATE (18TH JANUARY) 186 YEARS AGO : WESTMINSTER SLAPS DOWN ONE OF ITS IRISH ‘PET REBELS’.
Daniel O’Connell (‘The Liberator’, pictured, left) never claimed to be an Irish republican despite involving himself in an issue which, then as now, required a republican solution in order to obtain a just resolution. Although he campaigned on behalf of those who suffered as a result of injustices inflicted by Westminster, he made it clear that it was his desire that Ireland should remain as a unit governed by the British ‘Monarchy’ – saying, if you like – ‘stay if you want, just treat us better’. He had publicly and repeatedly vowed to work within ‘the law’ – British ‘law’.
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 then British Prime Minister) 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..” In other words – ‘thus far, O’Connell, but no further’.
His subservience to British ‘law’ could have been used against him at any time and, in December 1830, that’s what happened : he was one of a group of ‘troublemakers’ that were rounded-up for questioning in connection with meetings/assemblage of a type which had been forbidden by the British ‘Lord Lieutenant of Ireland’ – Westminster was ‘jittery’ regarding its political position in Ireland due, in the main, to four issues : corn (availability and price of), currency devaluations, the overall banking system and the ‘catholic problem’ ; this period in our history witnessed the beginning of ‘an Cogadh na nDeachúna’ – the ‘Tithe War’, and also heralded in catholic unrest in Belgium and Poland. Westminster would not allow such actions to gather pace here, if it could help it.
On the 18th January 1831 (186 years ago on this date) Daniel O’Connell was charged on 31 counts (14 of which were for ‘violating the Suppression Act of 10 George IV 1829’, to which O’Connell pleaded guilty) including ‘conspiracy’, and was arrested, fined 2,000 pounds and imprisoned for one year. He served three months, mostly because the ‘1829 Acts’ expired in April that year and those imprisoned under it were released by default. Westminster had ‘boxed clever’ – it had been seen to ‘punish offenders’ but not to the extent where the offender would become radicalised due to the severity of the punishment, a trick it performs to this day on those Irish people who consider themself to be ‘radicals’!
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.
THE TEAM I WORSHIP. (By Harry Melia.)
I’m a football fanatic
I love everything about Man United.
I remember my late father watching them play
and could not understand why he smashed
the telly that day
his beloved team were beaten in the FA Cup Final.
I’ve been to Old Trafford many times
among forty-six thousand fans
the cheer gave me a natural high
as Sparky scored, fist towards the sky.
In this dreary prison as time goes slowly by
I look forward to the football on the radio,
I play a game myself with the lads
it helps to pass the time and gives me joy.
Giggs, Keane, Cole, Beckham and Co
I’ve seen the players and stars come and go
But I remain and loyally so
Man United GO GO GO !
My dream is to see them win the European Cup
Renaldo and the rest
rank with the world’s greatest player
his name is George Best.
At Old Trafford or away from home
I cheer Man United wherever they roam
This season we are on course for the treble
and Premiership crown
watch Cole, Yorke and Solskaer
shoot all the others down.
A Man United fan I will always be
for I very highly rate us
and reckon I should be awarded
top fan status.
(Next – ‘The Padded Cell’, by Harry Melia.)
ON THIS DATE (18TH JANUARY) 95 YEARS AGO : DUBLIN UNEMPLOYED OCCUPY LANDMARK BUILDING.
‘On January 18th 1922, a group of unemployed Dublin workers seized the concert hall of the Rotunda. ‘The Irish Times’ of the following day noted that ‘..the unemployed in Dublin have seized the concert room at the Rotunda, and they declare that they will hold that part of the building until they are removed, as a protest against the apathy of the authorities…a ‘garrison’, divided into ‘companies’, each with its ‘officers’, has been formed, and from one of the windows the red flag flies..’
Liam O’Flaherty, as chairman of the ‘Council of Unemployed’, spoke to the paper about the refusal of the men to leave the premises, stating that no physical resistance would be put up against the police and that the protest was a peaceful one, yet they intended to stay where they were –“If we were taken to court, we would not recognise the court, because the Government that does not redress our grievances is not worth recognising..” O’Flaherty told the Times…’ (more here.)
Rather than ‘tackle’ (occupy, in this case) symptoms of the disease (ie the Concert Hall and Apollo House), the actual disease itself should be ‘tackled’, providing those doing so have no apparent embarrassing baggage.
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 logic of the trade unions’ leadership ‘policing’ its members in these ways, was that, supposedly, capitalism would ‘deliver the goods’ if soaring wage levels didn’t rock the boat. But far from it, the myth of capitalist ‘development’ has been well shattered. Unemployment in the country (North and Free State) stands at an average of 17% with areas in the north and east suffering actual figures of 40% adult and 50% youth unemployment.
The establishment of a sound industrial base, essential to prosperity, has not occurred. Instead, the withdrawal especially of British capital, and the high turnover of other industrial enterprises, has prevented the consolidation of new industries while the developments of the last 25 years have shattered most native industry. Even within its own strictly economic terms the ICTU’s strategy has been proved sterile, yet it persists in its confidence in capitalism’s potential, while its apologists actually praise the rise in ‘status’ of the trade union movement.
James Plunkett (a Stick, and author of, among other books, ‘Strumpet City’) writes in ‘Trade Unions and Change in Irish Society’ – “Trade unionism in Ireland has come through three stages…today it is part of the economic trio – that of employers as a body, of government and of trade unions…” And so, thrilled by its acceptance by the state, the contemporary ICTU comprehensively ignores Connolly who warned “…the political State of capitalism has no place..measures which aim to place industries in the hands of, or under the control of, such a political State, are in no sense steps towards that ideal (of socialism)..” (MORE LATER).
ON THIS DATE (18TH JANUARY) 83 YEARS AGO : DEATH OF AN IRISH NATIONALIST LEADER.
In October of 1920, a Mr. J.R. Clynes of the British Labour Party voiced his concern, in Westminster, that the British Government were “..arming the Orangemen (to) police their Catholic neighbours…” in the Six County ‘State’, while Joe Devlin (‘United Irish League’ – UIL) [pictured, left] pointed out that 300 of the ‘Special Constables’ from the Lisburn area had already “resigned in protest” because their “fellow Constables” would not stop looting their (Catholic) neighbours!
Mr. Devlin stated – “The Protestants are to be armed. Their pogrom is to be made less difficult. Instead of paving stones and sticks they are to be given rifles.” Joe Devlin led a busy life – a barman and journalist at the start of his working life, he was elected as a ‘Home Rule MP’ (British Parliament) for North Kilkenny in 1902, at 31 years young, and held his seat until 1906, when he was elected again, this time for the West Belfast area.
He was that area’s representative in Westminster until 1922 ; he acted as General Secretary for the ‘United Irish League’ (UIL)/Home Rule Party’, from 1904 to 1920, and was also involved with the ‘Ancient Order of Hibernians’ when, at 34 years of age, he served as the ‘National President’ of that organisation, a position he held for 29 years (!), during which time he forged links between the ‘AOH’ and the ‘United Irish League’.
He first took a seat in Stormont in 1921 (at 50 years of age, and stayed there until 1934) ; in 1928 he founded, and chaired, the ‘National League of the North’. Incidentally, he was not related to Bernadette Devlin or Paddy Devlin. The ‘Irish News’ newspaper wrote the following piece the day after Joe Devlin died –
“It is with feelings of the most profound sorrow that we record the death of Mr Joseph Devlin, MP…his own people, like many others, were driven from the country by the conditions of the times into the growing city of Belfast, and lived in humble circumstances in the West Division. A little household typical of thousands where life was a daily struggle to avert poverty, and where the youngest were expected to do their share, was the home of his early years…like the majority of the Catholic youth of Belfast at that period, he left school early to take his part in the battle of life…Speaking of him, Mr John Redmond M.P., said: “Mr Devlin’s career has been a proud one for Ireland. It has been more than that – it has been a hopeful one for Ireland. Few public careers in the last century have been so rapid as the career of Mr Devlin. He today holds a foremost position in the public life of our country, and if I were asked to explain the reason, in my opinion, for the rapidity and success of his career, I would say that its success and rapidity have been due to the combination of several great qualities – superb debating power and dauntless courage, combined with a cautious mind and a cool judgment ; transparent honesty and enthusiasm combined with an absolutely untiring industry; perfect loyalty to his leader for the time being, to his comrades, and to his Party – combined, let me say, with a modest and lovable disposition…”.
At the General Election of 1906 Mr Devlin was elected by a majority of 16…there was an indescribable outburst of enthusiasm when the figures were announced. Angered by the rout of the Tory, a mob of Unionists, who had been expecting the defeat of Mr Devlin and had come to the Courthouse on the Crumlin Road, where the votes were counted, with drums, bands and banners to celebrate the event, gave full expression in the usual manner to their chagrin. As Mr Devlin MP was descending the steps of the Courthouse, surrounded by his friends, a police inspector advised him not to leave that way. Mr Devlin’s response was characteristic. “I am not going to sneak out by the back way.” He then proceeded down the steps in face of the mob, and one of the police, realising his undaunted courage, shouted for fair play for Mr Devlin. The West was truly awake that night ; it was Belfast’s night of jubilation, in which old and young came out to expression to the joy they felt at the triumph of their fellow citizen – a man who later was destined to plead their cause all over the civilised world. The historic division that night was ablaze with bonfires and illuminations, and the dawn had broken before the people retired to rest…” (from here).
Joe Devlin died young, at 63 years of age, on Thursday, the 18th January 1934 – 83 years ago on this date.
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!
The S.O. snapped – “Get them Provo bastards up to Cage 10. Get these German bastards up to the YPC (criminals cage) and you, dopey-balls, get you and that other idiot of a screw out of my sight and stay out of my way for at least a week. What the fuck are you so interested in the German for anyway? You looking for a pen pal or what…?”
As we made our way up to Cage 10 we looked at Seán with a certain amount of fear. As he reflected on sabotaging the careers of the two screws he said : “The war goes on. We can still make a difference.” We looked at him with awe and nodded at the maxim he had just imparted.
Thanks for reading, Sharon.