REPUBLICAN PRISONERS : PICKET IN REMEMBRANCE, STATEMENT IN SUPPORT.
HUNGER STRIKE COMMEMORATION, Dublin, Saturday May 6th 2017, GPO Dublin, 12 noon to 2pm : Between the years 1917 and 1981, 22 Irish men died on hunger strike in the fight for Irish freedom. That same fight continues today, as six Irish counties remain under the jurisdictional control of Westminster, which enforces that control with military occupation. The annual Hunger-Strike Commemoration – organised by the Republican Movement – will be held this year on Saturday, 6th May, when a picket and rally will be held at the GPO in Dublin’s O’Connell Street, from 12 noon to 2pm. All republicans welcome!
The following statement was issued by the RSF POW Department on Sunday, 30th April 2017 : ‘Gabriel Mackle in isolation in Maghaberry for a further 28 days : Gabriel Mackle has been in isolation in Maghaberry jail, Co Antrim, since he returned from parole for a family occasion at the end of March. Most of that time has been in the ‘Care and Supervision Unit’ (CSU) – the isolation unit. This situation arose when Gabriel returned from parole in March and he refused to come under the structures of the IRPWA on Roe 4. Gabriel was and is a CABHAIR-supported POW, he was a guest on Roe 4 for some time and worked under his own structures. He was approached by members of the IRPWA and told he would be removed from the landing if he did not comply with the IRPWA directive. He refused to do so and was removed from Roe 4.
Gabriel’s father got a stroke four weeks ago and died on Sunday, April 23rd. Gabriel did not have a visit with his father in the hospital. Though he applied for 48-hour compassionate parole, he was allowed parole for just eight hours to attend the funeral on the Tuesday. This was a callous act on the part of the prison regime. The physical change in him was dramatic and his family and friends were shocked to see his weight loss and his unhealthy pallor. He has not been given his personal belongings and has no access to newspapers or books. His drinks are placed outside his cell door and he must knock on the door when he wants a drink. He has no access to kitchen facilities as he did in Roe House, so he has either to eat what is given him or starve, which would explain his weight loss.
He has had no visits and is allowed only a five-minute phone calls to his wife. This is particularly hard on the children who had regular visits with their father, suddenly he is removed from visits. His yard time is one hour on his own during which he is verbally abused by other prisoners. On April 28th last, the governor and a member of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) visited Gabriel with the intention of moving him to Bann House where the loyalist prisoners are held. Naturally Gabriel refused such a move. But that refusal is viewed by the prison regime as a refusal to obey an order, so once again Rule 32 was cited and he is on punishment for another 28 days, another full month in the CSU punishment block, and the cycle starts all over again.
A long battle for political status has been fought in the jails in the Occupied Six Counties. When political status was signed away in the Stormont Agreement in 1998, the POWs who were jailed had to begin that fight all over again and many were injured in the process. Roe House was set aside for republicans when it was clear that POWs would never accept criminalisation. And now when one group, by sheer volume of numbers, try to manipulate all POWs in Roe House, those who will not come under their control are criminalized. Maghaberry Prison tops the list of the three prisons in the Occupied Six Counties for the longest stays in the CSU, (1,813 in 2015). In September 2015 it was reported that ‘prisoners were held in solitary confinement for months and even years in Maghaberry Prison, despite a call from United Nations’ inspectors for a worldwide ban on more than 15 days. In 2014 at least ten prisoners were held in solitary confinement in Maghaberry for over 100 days each, with four prisoners held for over a year and in one case a prisoner was held for five years. The United Nations considers solitary confinement as the physical isolation of individuals who are in their cells for over 22 hours a day and it has called for a worldwide ban on durations of over 15 days.’ SUPPORT THE HUNGER-STRIKE PICKET, SUPPORT POW GABRIEL MACKLE!
ON THIS DATE (3RD MAY) 101 YEARS AGO : THREE REPUBLICAN DISSIDENTS EXECUTED BY THE BRITISH.
Pictured, left – Pádraig Pearse, Thomas J Clarke and Thomas MacDonagh.
On the 29th April 1916, a republican ‘surrender document’ was circulated between the combatants, which read – ‘In order to prevent the further slaughter of Dublin civilians and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers now surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered, the members of the Provisional Government present at headquarters have agreed to an unconditional surrender, and the commandants of the various districts in the City and county will order their commands to lay down arms..’ –
– the document (above) was signed by, among others, Patrick Pearse and Thomas MacDonagh, and it signalled the end of six days of fighting between approximately 20,000 British troops (including, in their ranks, Irish men) and a volunteer rebel force of about 1,500 Irish men and women (and other nationalities). At about 3.45pm on Saturday, 29th April 1916, the Rising was brought to an end – Pádraig Pearse surrendered to British Brigadier-General Lowe, James Connolly surrendered on behalf of the ‘Irish Citizens Army’ and Ned Daly surrendered to British Major De Courcy Wheeler ; it is not mentioned as often as it should be, but before the surrender of Ned Daly and his forces, all of whom fought bravely in the North King Street area of Dublin, the British Officer who was in command of that particular engagement, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Taylor of the South Staffordshire Regiment, had lost 11 of his men with a further 28 having being wounded.
Following the surrender of Daly and the Dublin 1st Battalion, Taylor – who was to claim later that he was acting under orders from his superior, Brigadier-General William Henry Muir Lowe – ordered his men, who were enraged over having lost so many of their number, to ‘flush out’ any remaining enemy forces. Taylor’s troops began breaking into local houses and, before their bloodlust was satisfied, they shot and/or bayoneted 15 boys and men to death, all of whom were ‘rebel fighters’, according to the British. Approximately 590 people died during the six days of the 1916 Rising, of which 374 were civilians (including 38 children, aged 16 or younger), 116 British soldiers, 77 Irish rebel soldiers and 23 members of the British ‘police force’ which operated in Ireland at that time (‘1169’ comment – the objective has not yet being obtained, as not one of those rebel/dissident fighters took up arms to ‘achieve’ a so-called ‘Free State’ : the aim then, as now, is to secure a Free Ireland).
Padraig Pearse, Tom Clarke and Thomas MacDonagh, three of those in command of the republican dissidents during the Rising, were court-martialed by the British on the 2nd May 1916 and sentenced to death and, the next day – 3rd May 1916, 101 years ago on this date – they were taken to the Stonebreakers’ Yard in Kilmainham Jail and, at dawn, were shot dead by a British Army firing squad. It was these executions that prompted British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith to warn General Maxwell that ‘a large number of executions would sow the seeds of lasting trouble in Ireland’ – that was the Westminster elite once again missing the point in regards to their ‘Irish outpost’ : ‘lasting trouble in Ireland’ is, unfortunately, guaranteed by the fact that it is the British military and political presence here that brings ‘trouble’, not the manner in which that presence treats its ‘subjects’.
Before he was executed, Padraig Pearse stated : “We seem to have lost. We have not lost. To refuse to fight would have been to lose ; to fight is to win. We have kept faith with the past, and handed on a tradition to the future. If you strike us down now, we shall rise again and renew the fight. You cannot conquer Ireland. You cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom. If our deed has not been sufficient to win freedom, then our children will win it by a better deed…”
Pádraig Pearse was born in Dublin on the 10th November 1879 to an English father (who worked as a sculptor) and an Irish mother, both of whom encouraged him to learn about and appreciate his roots. At 21 years of age he joined the ‘Gaelic League’ and his enthusiasm ensured his advancement within that organisation – he was appointed as the editor of their newspaper, ‘An Claidheamh Solais’ (‘The Sword of Light’). Not content with just a newspaper from which to voice his pro-Irish opinion, he founded a school – St. Enda’s College in Dublin, at 29 years of age, and structured its curriculum around Irish traditions and culture and tutored in both the Irish and English languages. It was through the League that Pearse met like-minded individuals who also wanted ‘to break the connection with England’.
At 35 years of age, in 1914, he was accepted as a member of the supreme council of the ‘Irish Republican Brotherhood’ (IRB), a militant group that had stated its intention to use force to remove the British military and political presence from Ireland and, during the 1916 Rising – which he was heavily involved in organising – he was in command of the General Post Office (GPO) in Dublin. He was executed at dawn by a British Army firing squad on the 3rd May 1916, in the Stonebreakers’ Yard in Kilmainham Jail.
By Pádraig Pearse.
I do not grudge them : Lord, I do not grudge
My two strong sons that I have seen go out
To break their strength and die, they and a few,
In bloody protest for a glorious thing,
They shall be spoken of among their people,
The generations shall remember them,
And call them blessed.
But I will speak their names to my own heart
In the long nights;
The little names that were familiar once
Round my dead hearth.
Lord, thou art hard on mothers :
We suffer in their coming and their going ;
And tho’ I grudge them not, I weary, weary
Of the long sorrow. And yet I have my joy :
My sons were faithful, and they fought.
Tom Clarke was born in a British military camp at Hurst Park in the Isle of Wight, on the 11th March 1858. His father was then a Corporal in the British Army but, like Tom’s mother, was Irish born. A year later Corporal Clarke was drafted to South Africa where the family lived until 1865. Tom first saw Ireland about 1870, when his father was appointed a Sergeant of the Ulster Militia and was stationed at Dungannon in County Tyrone.
It was there that he grew to early manhood, and his father wished him to follow in his own footsteps and join the British Army, but the ‘Poor Old Woman’ had already enlisted Tom in her own small but select Army, at a time when the prospects of putting food on the table were not good – an Gorta Mór and the defeat of the Fenians still hung heavy over the land. Tom Clarke was sworn into the ‘Irish Republican Brotherhood’ by Michael Davitt and John Daly ; he could have had no more worthy sponsors.
In 1880, at twenty-two years young, he emigrated to the United States where he joined Clann na Gael and quickly volunteered for active service in Britain. The ship he travelled on struck an iceberg and sank, but he was rescued and landed on Newfoundland. Resuming his interrupted journey, he reached London where he was soon arrested – he had been followed from New York by ‘Henri Le Caron’, a British spy. On 14th June 1883, at the ‘Old Bailey’, he was, with three others, sentenced to penal servitude for life.
For 15 years and nine months, in the prisons of Chatham and Portland, Tom Clarke endured imprisonment without flinching ; 15 years and nine months of an incessant attempt, by the British, to deprive him of his life or reason. This torture did not cease with daylight and recommence on the following day ; it was maintained during the hours of darkness when even the vilest criminal was entitled to sleep and rest. But Tom Clarke and his comrades got neither sleep nor rest – cunning devices for producing continuous disturbing sounds were erected over their cells – these are described in his book ‘Glimpses of an Irish Felon’s Prison Life’ . The relentless brutality at length drove two of his comrades, Whitehead and Gallagher, hopelessly insane. With John Daly, they were released in 1896 ; Daly had been arrested a year after Tom Clarke, and had hitherto shared the same prisons with him ; though kept apart, they had managed to communicate with each other now and again. The release of his friend was a sore loss to Tom Clarke who, for a further two years, had to endure alone an even more intensified form of torture.
Released in 1898, aged 40, he spent a short time in Limerick with his friend John Daly before returning to America where, in 1901, he married Kathleen Daly, John Daly’s daughter. With Devoy, he founded the ‘Gaelic American’ newspaper and, as its assistant editor, worked in New York until 1907. Then he returned to Ireland and opened a newspaper shop at Parnell Street, Dublin, which quickly became the meeting place for Pádraig Pearse and that valiant company of a new generation who weren’t prepared to wait for crumbs from the British table. They knew Tom Clarke as a man who had for so long been tested in the crucible of suffering and had been found unbreakable, and he didn’t fail them. In 1916, they repaid him by insisting that his should be the first signature to the Proclamation of the Republic ; it was the greatest day of his life, though well he knew it meant for him the end. He was shot on the 3rd May 1916, at 58 years of age, of those only eighteen of those had been spent in Ireland. If a man is judged by the life he has led then there is no more splendid figure than Tom Clarke ; the onset of the years chills the blood of most men – add to this the incredible physical and mental torture which he had endured for almost sixteen of those years. Most of the remainder were years of hardship and disillusionment. His father’s influence and his early environment militated against his faith yet, like Padraig Pearse, he turned his back on ‘the beautiful vision of the world’, and set his face to the road before him, the road indicated by ‘the Poor Old Woman’.
On the 1st February 1878 a child, Thomas, was born in Cloughjordan in Tipperary, into a household which would consist of four sons and two daughters – the parents, Joseph and Mary (Louise Parker) MacDonagh, were both employed as teachers in a near-by school. He went to Rockwell College in Cashel, Tipperary, where he entertained the idea of training for the priesthood but, at 23 years of age, decided instead to follow in his parents footsteps and trained to be a teacher.
He obtained employment at St Kieran’s College in Kilkenny and, while working there, advanced his interest in Irish culture by joining the local ‘Gaelic League’ group and was quickly elected to a leadership role within that organisation but, by 1905, he had left the League and moved on to teach at St Colman’s College, Fermoy, where he also established himself as a published poet. Three years later he moved to a new position, as resident assistant headmaster at St Enda’s, Pádraig Pearse’s school, then based in Ranelagh, Dublin. In 1911, after completing his BA and MA at UCD, he was appointed lecturer in English at the same institution. In 1912 he married Muriel Gifford, sister of Grace, who would later marry Joseph Plunkett in Kilmainham Gaol.
In the years prior to the 1916 Rising MacDonagh became active in Irish literary circles and was a co-founder of the Irish Review and, with Plunkett, of the Irish Theatre on Hardwicke Street. MacDonagh was a witness to Bloody Sunday in 1913 and this event appears to have radicalised him so much so that he moved away from the circles of the literary revival and embraced political activism. He joined the Irish Volunteers in December 1913 and was appointed to the body’s governing committee. In 1914 he rejected John Redmond’s appeal for the Volunteers to join the fight in the First World War. On the 9th September 1914 he attended the secret meeting that agreed to plan for an armed insurrection against British rule. By March 1915 he had been sworn into the ranks of the ‘Irish Republican Brotherhood’ and was also serving on the central executive of the Irish Volunteers, was director of training for the Volunteers and commandant of the 2nd Battalion of the Dublin Brigade.
In 1916, at the age of 38, he joined his comrades in challenging a then world power, England, over the injustices which that ‘world leader’ was inflicting in Ireland and, with six of his comrades, he signed a proclamation declaring the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, free of any external political or military interference. He was found guilty by a British court martial that followed the 1916 Rising, and was sentenced to death. He was executed by firing squad on the 3rd May that year. His friend and fellow poet Francis Ledwidge wrote a poem in his honour after his death ; Ledwidge, the ‘Poet of the Blackbirds’, fought for the British in the ‘First World War’ and was injured in 1916 – he was recovering from his wounds in hospital when news reached him of the Rising and he let it be known that he felt betrayed by Westminster over its interference in Ireland –
Lament for Thomas MacDonagh.
He shall not hear the bittern cry
In the wild sky where he is lain
Nor voices of the sweeter birds
Above the wailing of the rain.
Nor shall he know when loud March blows
Thro’ slanting snows her fanfare shrill
Blowing to flame the golden cup
Of many an upset daffodil.
And when the dark cow leaves the moor
And pastures poor with greedy weeds
Perhaps he’ll hear her low at morn
Lifting her horn in pleasant meads.
In his address to the court martial, Thomas MacDonagh said : “Gentlemen of the court martial, I choose to think you have done your duty according to your lights in sentencing me to death. I thank you for your courtesy. It would not be seemly for me to go to my doom without trying to express, however inadequately, my sense of the high honour I enjoy in being one of those predestined to die in this generation for the cause of Irish freedom. You will, perhaps, understand this sentiment, for it is one to which an Imperial poet of a bygone age bore immortal testimony : “T’is sweet and glorious to die for one’s country.” You would all be proud to die for Britain, your Imperial patron, and I am proud and happy to die for Ireland, my glorious fatherland…there is not much left to say. The Proclamation of the Irish Republic has been adduced in evidence against me as one of the signatories. I adhere to every statement in that proclamation. You think it already a dead and buried letter – but it lives, it lives! From minds alive with Ireland’s vivid intellect it sprang, in hearts alive with Ireland’s mighty love it was conceived. Such documents do not die.
The British occupation of Ireland has never for more than one hundred years been compelled to confront in the field of flight a rising so formidable as that which overwhelming forces have for the moment succeeded in quelling. This rising did not result from accidental circumstances. It came in due recurrent reasons as the necessary outcome of forces that are ever at work. The fierce pulsation of resurgent pride that disclaims servitude may one day cease to throb in the heart of Ireland — but the heart of Ireland will that day be dead. While Ireland lives, the brains and brawn of her manhood will strive to destroy the last vestige of foreign rule in her territory. In this ceaseless struggle there will be, as there must be, an alternate ebb and flow. But let England make no mistake. The generous high-bred youth of Ireland will never fail to answer the call we pass on to them, will never full to blaze forth in the red rage of war to win their country’s freedom. Other and tamer methods they will leave to other and tamer men ; but for themselves they must do or die. It will be said our movement was doomed to failure. It has proved so. Yet it might have been otherwise.
There is always a chance of success for brave men who challenge fortune. That we had such a chance, none know so well as your statesmen and military experts. The mass of the people of Ireland will doubtless lull their consciences to sleep for another generation by the exploded fable that Ireland cannot successfully fight England. We do not propose to represent the mass of the people of Ireland. We stand for the intellect and for immortal soul of Ireland. To Ireland’s soul and intellect, the inert mass drugged and degenerated by ages of servitude must in the destined day of resurrection render homage and free service receiving in turn the vivifying impress of a free people. Gentlemen, you have sentenced me to death, and I accept your sentence with joy and pride since it is for Ireland I am to die. I go to join the goodly company of men who died for Ireland, the least of whom is worthier far than I can claim to be, and that noble band are themselves but a small section of the great, unnumbered company of martyrs, whose Captain is the Christ who died on Calvary. Of every white robed knight of all that goodly company we are the spiritual kin. The forms of heroes flit before my vision, and there is one, the star of whose destiny chimes harmoniously with the swan song of my soul. It is the great Florentine, whose weapon was not the sword, but prayer and preaching ; the seed he sowed fructifies to this day in God’s Church. Take me away, and let my blood bedew the sacred soil of Ireland. I die in the certainty that once more the seed will fructify.”
Thomas MacDonagh – born on the 1st February 1878, executed by Westminster on the 3rd May 1916.
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.
DUMBO THE ELEPHANT… (By Cian Sharkhin.)
“DON’T HAVE ME TO COME OVER THERE…!!” – my mother had lost it! Her ‘posh’ accent had crumbled, caved in, and from the ruins of her disintegrating telephone voice something raw and feral was rearing up, fused with the rampaging forces of the darkest abyss. I knew I had to answer her, I dare not defy her any further.
“I can’t, Mum…” – that was it. Everyone in the crowd seemed to go quite, even the wriggling and pushing behind me stopped. Everyone certainly knew who Christopher was now. I could’ve melted away, I wished the baby elephant was Dumbo and I could have jumped on his back and flown away, but no such easy escape was available to me.
“What do you mean YA CAN’T!?” My mother screamed in her thick Dublin north inner city accent. The persona had most definitely slipped. She came striding towards me, or should I say that possessed creature that once was my mum and now was more like Mary the mad Maenad came bouncing towards the crowd, her hair was flouncing up and down as she strode towards me, and the funny thing was that even though I knew I was in for it, I thought of ‘dark brown sable colour glow’. She always sent me around to the chemist for dark brown sable colour glow. It was weird… (MORE LATER.)
ON THIS DATE (3RD MAY) 96 YEARS AGO : MAYO MEN ROUT THE BRITS!
“One is very privileged to speak at the funeral of such a great and good man on this historic occasion. One is also deeply aware of ones lack of qualification to speak…” – Dr. Brian P. Murphy of Glenstal Abbey, historian and author of ‘Patrick Pearse and the Lost Republican Ideal’, speaking at the funeral of IRA Comdt. General Tom Maguire, who died on the 5th July 1993, at 101 years of age. His family had fought at the Battle of Aughrim in 1691 and another ancestor joined the United Irishmen and fought in 1798. Tom’s own father was in the Fenians, and Tom himself joined the Irish Volunteers shortly after they were formed in 1913. In September 1920 he was appointed O/C of the South Mayo Brigade of the Irish Republican Army. On March 7th 1921 they ambushed a lorry load of British troops, capturing weapons and taking prisoners.
On the 3rd of May 1921 – 96 years ago on this date – 30 men of the South Mayo Brigade of the Irish Republican Army fought against 600 Black and Tans at Tourmakeady. The British losses at that battle were 10 killed with 13 wounded, whereas the Mayo Brigade lost two men that day, their Brigade Adjutant, Michael J. O’Brien and Volunteer Padraig Feeney, who was brother to Tom’s future wife, Christina. Comdt Maguire suffered a gunshot wound to the arm that day while another Volunteer was slightly wounded. The British used aircraft to tackle the IRA Brigade in the aftermath of the ambush and the Maguire family home in Cross, County Mayo, was demolished by the Black and Tans as a reprisal for that attack at Tourmakeady.
On the 19th May 1921 Tom Maguire was elected to the 2nd Dáil Éireann and sometime afterwards was appointed to the rank of Comdt. General of the Second Western Division, IRA, under a commission signed by Cathal Brugha, the All Ireland Minister for Defence. On the 7th January 1922 at the debate on the Treaty of Surrender, Tom remained loyal to the Republic he had pledged his loyalty to by stating “Ní toil” (“I do not agree”).
He was captured in Headford by Free Staters late in 1922 and court-martialed in Athlone in January 1923, but was not executed as he thought he would be. On April 11th 1923, while Tom was still incarcerated, his younger brother Seán, along with six others, were executed in Tuam by the Free State. These men we know today as the ‘Tuam Martyrs’. On June 10th Tom escaped along with five others and while on the run was elected by the people of Mayo South in the General Election of August 1923.
In December 1938 Tom, along with the surviving members of the 2nd Dáil, delegated their executive powers of Government to the Army Council of the Irish Republican Army in accordance with the resolution passed at the First Dáil Éireann meeting of March 11th 1921. In 1969 and again in 1986 Tom Maguire’s loyalty to the All Ireland Republic was tested by those who thought they could turn stones into bread like the tempter in the desert, by taking seats in Leinster House and Stormont : in 1969 he recognised The Provisional Army Council of the Irish Republican Army as the legitimate successor to the 1938 body. The Army convention had “neither the right nor the authority to pass a resolution recognising the British and two partition parliaments..”, he declared and, again, in 1986 he held true to the Republic by stating “I do not recognise the legitimacy of any army council styling itself the Council of the Irish Republican Army which lends support to any person or organisation styling itself as Sinn Féin and prepared to enter the partition parliament of Leinster House”.
In 1987 Comdt. General Tom Maguire declared in a statement of recognition “I hereby declare that the Continuity Army Council are the lawful Executive and Army Council respectively of the Irish Republican Army, and that the governmental authority, delegated in the Proclamation of 1938, now resides in the Continuity Army Council and its lawful successors”.
Comdt. General Tom Maguire served Ireland and Ireland alone. (The above is an edited version of the original, sourced from here.)
RICOCHETS OF HISTORY…
At the end of a year in which *IRA decommissioning has been met with widespread euphoria, Phil Mac Giolla Bháin takes a stubborn look at the facts and concludes that the celebration party may be a little premature. From the ‘Magill Annual 2002’ (*PIRA).
In the hierarchy of needs, we can identify four distinct factors dictating why the northern nationalist population has required some of its members to bear arms. Firstly, there was the physical survival of an unarmed people who were being attacked by the nearest thing these islands have seen in the 20th century to Bosnian Serbs. How close the people of Clonard, Ardoyne or Short Strand came to a Sabra or Shateela is a moot point. But the very fact that agents of the State were “virtually indistinguishable from the loyalist mob” (Cameron Report on the then RUC and B-Specials), meant that ordinary people would acquire whatever means they could to defend themselves, their families and their neighbours.
Thus, republicans acquired the franchise of defending the nationalist areas from pogrom. Secondly, there was the clear inability of the northern State to provide any parity of esteem for all those it governed. Reasonably polite requests for civil rights had been met with State violence – the genteel rules of passive resistance were not understood by the grim-faced burghers who ran Stormont.
Thirdly, there was the national question of the partition of the country – in 1969, despite being defeated in a campaign seven years earlier, the IRA hadn’t gone away. Finally, there was the socialist republic. The fact is that the IRA has been forced to destroy its weapons while the causes of the conflict remain virulently in place (‘1169’ comment – not “forced”, but encouraged to do so, by a nationalist, rather than republican, leadership). The four chief reasons why the current leadership became youthful activists in 1969 remain largely unresolved. The physical threat is nightly there in the form of pipebomb attacks, and the equality agenda is still far from achieved. (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!
BÁS DON BÉARLA.
Taking a buwl (a stroll) around the cage next morning, I was beckoned to the wire of the cage by a comrade from Cage 16 on his way to see the prison doctor. “Did you see us on the TV last night?” I asked.“That’s what I’m here for. The OC of the Camp wants to know why in the name of Jesus Cage 10 put that stupid banner up last night, making an eejit of the whole lot of us.” “What are you rambling on about?” I replied, “You’re all just jealous because you never came up with a slogan as good as ours…”
“You were told to put up a banner with a revolutionary slogan,” he said. “And so we did…” – but suddenly I remembered that Cyril was the only person in Cage 10 that spoke Irish. I whispered into the OC’s ear and reminded him that we didn’t really know what ‘Bás don Béarla’ meant : “Emm, what exactly have we got on our banner?”, asked the OC of Cage 10. “Don’t you know?”, asked the comrade from Cage 16. “Well, we think it says something like emm…ahh..SMIG! What the fuck does it say?”, asked the OC. Smig looked quizzically at both the OC and the messenger on the other side of the wire, then told us that he hadn’t a clue what it said.
The OC inquired of our comrade from Cage 16 if he could throw some light on our dilemma. The messenger wasn’t going to lose this opportunity to make us squirm – “‘Bás don Béarla’ means ‘Death to the English Language’…” , he chuckled.
The month of punishment Cyril suffered cleaning the toilets on reflection looks a bit harsh to me now. The thing about Cyril is that he really believed that his slogan was revolutionary but, sadly, at the time, we didn’t. He couldn’t understand our embarrassment in front of all our comrades throughout Long Kesh.
ON THIS DATE (3RD MAY) 38 YEARS AGO : TYRANT ASCENDS TO THE THRONE.
Margaret Thatcher formed her first government as Prime Minister of the ‘United Kingdom’ on the 3rd May 1979, after the general election, and proceeded to cause havoc for the working class and the unemployed until she died in April 2013. If you’re a Thatcher ‘fan’ then turn away now. ‘Cause we’re not.
Not forgetting that even Margaret Thatcher had parents and, therefore, was loved at one time or another by at least those two people and will be missed by at least two others (her children), the air seems cleaner since 2013 and almost all seems to be now right with the world, despite her best efforts to fully foul the planet. Her arrogance and her misjudged sense of self-worth was plain for all to see in her dealings in her own country with the trade union movement and in this country with, among her other failings, the 1981 Hunger-Strikers ; she despised both organisations and the representatives of same, the former because she realised that ‘ordinary Joe Soaps’ had to be ‘kept down’ if her vision of a fully capitalist society was to come to fruition and the latter because such principled fighters for justice were not only alien to her political belief system but courageous people like Bobby Sands and his comrades also threatened her preferred society.
That Margaret Thatcher, the politician, was a complete hypocrite was perhaps best illustrated in November 1989 when, during an interview she gave to BBC Radio 4’s ‘World At One’ programme, in connection with the ‘opening up’ of East Germany, she brazenly declared : “You cannot stifle or suppress a people’s desire for liberty”, which, of course, was exactly what she was attempting to do in Ireland, among other countries. Three years earlier, during the Westland Helicopter Affair, which led to the resignations of then British Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine and Trade Secretary Leon Brittan, British Labour Party MP Thomas Dalyell Loch described Thatcher as “a sustained, brazen deceiver : I say she is a bounder, a liar, a deceiver, a cheat and a crook.” Well qualified, then, to sit in Westminster.
As stated, her two children no doubt still miss her but, with a bit of practice, their aim will get better.
Thanks for reading, Sharon.