ON THIS DATE (18TH OCTOBER) 226 YEARS AGO – ‘REFORM DEMANDED FOR ALL’.
On the 18th October 1791 – 226 years ago on this date – a group of socially-minded Protestants, Anglicans and Presbyterians held their first public meeting in Belfast and formed themselves as ‘The Belfast Society of United Irishmen’ (the organisation became a secret society three years later), electing Sam McTier as ‘President’ ; he was married to Martha, who was a sister of William Drennan.
The aims and objectives of the Society were revolutionary for the times that were in it, and brought the organisation to the attention of the less ‘socially-minded’ political (and military) members of the British ruling-class in Dublin, which was then (and, indeed, now!) England’s political power-base in Ireland – ‘That the weight of English influence in the government of this country is so great, as to require a cordial union among all the people of Ireland, to maintain that balance which is essential to the preservation of our liberties and the extension of our commerce…the sole constitutional mode by which this influence can be opposed, is by a complete and radical reform of the representation of the people in Parliament… no reform is just which does not include every Irishman of every religious persuasion…’
The Belfast Society also adopted the ‘Charter’ of ‘The United Irishmen’ as a whole, and in so doing they drew further attention on themselves from their political enemies, at home and abroad – ‘In the present era of reform, when unjust governments are falling in every quarter of Europe, when religious persecution is compelled to abjure her tyranny over conscience, when the rights of men are ascertained in theory, and theory substantiated by practice, when antiquity can no longer defend absurd and oppressive forms, against the common sense and common interests of mankind, when all governments are acknowledged to originate from the people, and to be so far only obligatory, as they protect their rights and promote their welfare, we think it our duty, as Irishmen, to come forward, and state what we feel to be our heavy grievance, and what we know to be its effectual remedy.’
‘We have no national government, we are ruled by Englishmen, and the servants of Englishmen, whose object is the interest of another country, whose instrument is corruption, and whose strength is the weakness of Ireland; and these men have the whole of the power and patronage of the country, as means to seduce and subdue the honesty of her representatives in the legislature. Such an extrinsic power, acting with uniform force, in a direction too frequently opposite to the true line of our obvious interest, can be resisted with effect solely by unanimity, decision, and spirit in the people, qualities which may be exerted most legally, constitutionally, efficaciously, by the great measure, essential to the prosperity and freedom of Ireland, an equal representation of all the people in parliament. Impressed with these sentiments…we do pledge ourselves to our country, and mutually to each other…’
And with those words, the assembled Irishmen – Theobald Wolfe Tone, Thomas Russell, William Sinclair, Henry Joy McCracken, Samuel Neilson, Henry Haslett, Gilbert McIlveen, William and Robert Simms, Thomas McCabe, Thomas Pearce and Samuel McTier, among others, ensured the continuity of the on-going struggle against the British military and political presence in Ireland.
JOKER IN THE PACK…?
Padraig Flynn (left) has been facing the flak since he became Minister for the Environment. But Michael O’Higgins finds that nothing phases him. He retains the same certainty he had when saying quite different things. From ‘Magill’ magazine, May 1987.
As (Free State) Minister for the Environment, Padraig Flynn will oversea the referendum on the ‘Single European Act’ (an Act which he is opposed to) he will be, as a member of the government, calling for its approval – and sees no anomaly in that position! He has been assured that his “legitimate fears” in relation to divorce and abortion are groundless and says that the declaration of our military neutrality is ‘very important’ (‘1169’ comment – “neutrality” must have a different meaning in Shannon, as far as Leinster House is concerned).
The main thing is, he says, that Ireland (sic – he means the 26-County Free State) should not be playing a secondary role in Europe – he wants “to play on the first team.” He doesn’t know whether he will stay in politics or return to his teaching post as a school teacher, and still pays £1,000 a year towards his pension contribution so that if he does return to teaching for the purposes of his pension his service will be unbroken. He sees himself as a serious politician and looks hurt at any suggestion that he might be regarded as a lightweight, but there are some who find it hard to take him seriously –
“Maybe they should come up and see me sometime. I don’t make personalised remarks about them,” he says, “some of those people have made colossal mistakes in the past but I would like to think that they were doing their best. Maybe they will find that Padraig Flynn is a man of vision and that I have the courage to see that vision through” (‘1169’ comment – must be hard to have such ‘good vision’ when the sun is in your eyes…)
(END of ‘Joker In The Pack’ ; next – ‘Unity! On What Basis?’ , from ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, October 1954.)
ON THIS DATE (18TH OCTOBER) 136 YEARS AGO : IMPRISONED IRISHMEN ISSUE ‘NO RENT’ MANIFESTO.
‘Fellow-countrymen! – The hour to try your souls and to redeem your pledges has arrived. The executive of the National Land League forced to abandon the policy of testing the land act, feels
bound to advise the tenant-farmers of Ireland from this day forth to pay no rents under any circumstances to their landlords until the government relinquishes the existing system of terrorism and restores the constitutional rights of the people. Do not be daunted by the removal of your leaders…do not be wheedled into compromise of any sort by the threat of eviction.
If you only act together in the spirit to which, within the last two years, you have countless times solemnly pledged your vows, they can no more evict a whole nation than they can imprison them. Our exiled brothers in America may be relied upon to contribute, if necessary, as many millions of money as they have contributed thousands to starve out landlordism and bring English tyranny to its knees. No power on earth except faintheartedness on your own part can defeat you. Landlordism is already staggering under the blows which you have dealt it amid the applause of the world … one more heroic effort to destroy landlordism at the very source and fount of its existence, and the system which was and is the curse of your race and of your existence will have disappeared forever…
No power of legalized violence can extort one penny from your purses against your will. If you are evicted, you shall not suffer; the landlord who evicts will be a ruined pauper, and the government which supports him with its bayonets will learn in a single winter how powerless is armed force against the will of a united, determined, and self-reliant nation.
Signed CHARLES S. PARNELL, President, Kilmainham Jail
MICHAEL DAVITT, Hon. Sec. Portland Prison;
THOMAS BRENNAN, Hon Sec. Kilmainham Jail
JOHN DILLON, Head Organizer, Kilmainham Jail;
THOMAS SEXTON, Head Organizer, Kilmainham Jail;
PATRICK EGAN, Treasurer Paris, 1881.’
The above is the wording of a ‘NO RENT!’ manifesto issued, from prison – on the 18th October 1881, 136 years ago on this date – by the incarcerated leadership of the ‘Irish National Land League’, calling on small tenant farmers in Ireland to withhold rents ‘owed’ to their British ‘landlords’ until such time as the latter agreed to the demand of the ‘Land League’ for the ‘Three F’s’ – fair rent, fixity of tenure and free sale. The scale of unrest fostered by British greed can be judged by this article, from ‘The Illustrated London News’ of the 21st May, 1881 – ‘Our Special Artist in the disturbed agricultural districts of the west of Ireland contributes another sketch of the perils that frequently beset a process-server when employed in the legal execution of his duty. Some remarks on this subject were made last week, having reference to the instance of a landlord near Claremorris, Mr. Walter Burke*, who, finding that none of the ordinary process-servers in the country would venture to go round and deliver writs of ejectment to his defaulting tenants, has resolved to do it himself; galloping quickly, with his trusty servant, from one farmhouse to another; entering armed with a loaded revolver, not as a menace to others, but for his own needful protection**, and after showing the legal instrument, of which he leaves a copy, riding off as fast as he came…’(‘1169’ comment – *he paid the price for his bully-boy tactics the following year, in Claremorris…**he wouldn’t have needed such “protection” had he been a decent human being in the first place.)
The alphabet of the ‘Children’s Land League’ :
‘A is the army that covers the ground ;
B is the buckshot we’re getting all round ;
C is the crowbar of cruellest fame ;
D is our Davitt, a right glorious name ;
E is the English who’ve robbed us of bread ;
F is the famine they’ve left us instead ;
G is for Gladstone, whose life is a lie ;
H is the harvest we’ll hold or we’ll die ;
I is the inspector, who when drunk is bold ;
J is the jarvey, who’ll not drive him for gold ;
K is Kilmainham, where our true men abide ;
L is the Land League, our hope and our pride ;
M is the Magistrate, who makes black of our white ;
N is no rent, which will make our wrongs right ;
O is Old Ireland, that yet shall be freed ;
P is the Peelers, who sold her for greed ;
Q is the Queen, whose use is not known ;
R is the Rifles, who keep up her throne ;
S is the sheriff, with woe in his train ;
T is the toil that others may gain ;
U is the Union that works bitter harm ;
V is the villain that grabs up the farm ;
W is the warrant for death or for chains ;
X is the ’Express’, all lies and no brains ;
Y is ‘Young Ireland’ spreading the light ;
Z is the zeal that will win the great fight.’
And this is the continuity of that ‘great fight’.
“We British are sometimes told we do not understand the Irish but, if this is so, the failure to understand is a two-way street. Everything on which the IRA is currently engaged suggests that it does not understand us at all.” – So wrote Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for ‘Northern Ireland’, last July in ‘The London Evening Standard’ newspaper. More august* persons such as CJ Haughey and Garret Fitzgerald have also said the same from their varying points of view. By Cliodna Cussen, from ‘Iris’ magazine, Easter 1991. (‘1169′ comment : *’August’ as in ‘ dignified and impressive’? Haughey and Fitzgerald? How so? From what point of view? Certainly not from a republican perspective, anyway…)
A passage from Paul Scott’s opus magnus on India, ‘A Division of the Spoils’, where the name ‘Ireland’ has been substituted by me for the name ‘India’, may help to illustrate how fair-minded English people look at the ‘Irish Question’ today : “For hundreds of years, Ireland has formed part of England’s idea about herself and for the same period Ireland has been forced into a position of being a reflection of that idea. Up to say 1900, the part Ireland played in our idea about ourselves was the part played by anything we possessed which we believed it was right to possess (like a special relationship with God). Since 1900, certainly since 1918, the reverse has obtained.
The part played since then by Ireland in the English idea of ‘Englishness’ has been that of something we feel it does us no credit to have. Our idea about ourselves will now not accommodate any idea about Ireland except the idea of returning it to the Irish in order to prove that we are English and have demonstrably English ideas. Getting rid of Ireland will cause us at home no qualm of conscience because it will be like getting rid of what is no longer reflected in our mirror of ourselves. The sad thing is that, whereas in the English mirror there is no Irish reflection, in the Irish mirror the English reflection may be very hard to get rid of because, in the Irish mind, English possession has not been an idea but a reality, and often a harsh one.
The other sad thing is that people like the Irish may now see nothing at all when looking in their mirror. Not even themselves? But we shall see. The machinery for demission is wound up and there are overriding economic arguments for setting it in motion. And the fact that they’re still there simply adds to an English sence of grievance.”
Should we now be looking for new thinking, like Scotland and, instead of the sterile patterns of post-colonial rhetoric or the axphyxiating soothsaying of Lenihan-type waffle, should we not be asking for ‘Out by 92’?
(END of ‘Perceptions’ ; next – ‘After 32 Years – An Open Letter’, from ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, February 1955.)
REPUBLICAN SINN FÉIN HOLDS ITS 113TH ARD FHEIS, OCTOBER 2017.
Congratulations to all concerned, including Na Fianna Éireann, Cumann na mBan and CABHAIR (who will each have representatives at the event) for sticking to their political principles and refusing to include so-called ‘short cuts’ on their agenda. The Ard Fheis will be held on Saturday/Sunday 21st/22nd October next in a Dublin hotel, where the delegates will discuss 78 motions under six headings – political policy, prisoners, social and economic, organisation, activities and international and will have, on the Saturday, from 10am to 6pm to do so and from 10am to 4.30pm on the Sunday. We’ll be there, as usual, to assist in whatever we can meaning that, unfortunately, we probably won’t be here next Wednesday (25th) as we’ll have left ourselves shy of the best part of three days ‘blog’ time. But we’ll see how time goes for us..
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!
SMUGGLING – THE EASY WAY.
A STUDY IN TERROR AND INDIFFERENCE.
“The two balloons?”, replied Ned, “they’re escorting us back into A-Wing…” We both had a laugh. “I mean those balloons that you’re carrying in your arm”, said the screw, sarcastically. “Oh,” said Ned, “I thought that you meant these two balloons here…”, pointing at the two escort screws behind us. “What have you got in them?”, asked the screw. “Mostly vodka and whiskey,” answered Ned, sinisterly. The screw detected the sinister tone of Big Ned’s answer. “D’ya know what I mean like, Ned, we can’t allow inmates to bring drink in on visits or there’ll be trouble. Like after all, it’s against the rules. It would be more than my job’s worth…” said the screw, who was becoming paler by the minute as Big Ned looked down on him, expressionless, almost bored. “Get out of my way or I’ll kick your balls in,” said Ned, without blinking. The screw was looking really uncomfortable now.
“I think you’d be as well getting out of the way,” I said to the screw, and turned to the two screws standing behind us – “What do you two think?” I asked them. “For Christ sake open the fucking door and let him in…you know what he’s like…” said one of the two. “Don’t be telling anybody that I knew about this drink,” said the first screw, to Big Ned, who looked at him and said “Open the gate or I’ll break your nose.” The screw was trying to maintain some sense of personal dignity that probably wasn’t there in the first place, but Ned wouldn’t give him a break at all in front of his two mates. The screw resorted to trying to patronise Ned ; “Here, Ned, you’ll be all right this Christmas with all that drink…” “Mind your own business, ye nosey bastard,” answered Ned, as he walked through the open gate into A-Wing with both his and my Christmas drink. Ned returned my balloons to me and said – “There ye are, no problem. As prophesised.” (MORE LATER).
DAVID ROVICS : “THERE WILL ALWAYS BE RESISTANCE…”
“You can say that it’s about the savages
You can say you have a better way to live
You can call it Manifest Destiny
You can talk of all your civilization will give
You can say that we’re a thing of history
And progress is the future you will bring
You can send your armies to these mountains
You can say we’ll prosper beneath your king.
But there will always be resistance…” (from here.)
David stops off in Ireland from time to time (but not often enough, in our opinion) and is one of those rare performers that is genuine about why he is on stage and what it is he hopes to impart by being there ; ‘David Rovics grew up in a family of classical musicians in Wilton, Connecticut, and became a fan of populist regimes early on. By the early 90’s he was a full-time busker in the Boston subways and by the mid-90’s he was traveling the world as a professional flat-picking rabble-rouser. These days David lives in Portland, Oregon and tours regularly on four continents, playing for audiences large and small at cafes, pubs, universities, churches, union halls and protest rallies. He has shared the stage with a veritable who’s who of the left in two dozen countries, and has had his music featured on Democracy Now!, BBC, Al-Jazeera and other networks. His essays are published regularly on CounterPunch and elsewhere, and the 200+ songs he makes available for free on the web have been downloaded more than a million times. Most importantly, he’s really good. He will make you laugh, he will make you cry, he will make the revolution irresistible…’ (from here.)
And that’s not just blurb – if you’re anyway conscious of your political surroundings and have the cop-on to see through the semi-political haze that’s released by the establishment to confuse people, then you’ll enjoy being in the company of like-minded individuals for a few hours and, on Friday 3rd November next, in Hanlon’s Bar , on the North Circular Road, Dublin, you’ll have your chance –
– or, if you can’t make that Dublin gig, he’s in Belfast on the 1st November and Derry on the 2nd (and Norway on the 4th and 5th!) . The ‘1169’ team will be in Hanlon’s, but don’t expect a gig report the next day…!
Thanks for reading,