An Anti-Internment / POW information rally will be held before the All-Ireland Football Final on Sunday 2nd September next. Assemble outside Gills Bar beside Croke Park at 1.30pm. All Welcome!
“All men are born with equal rights, and in associating together to protect one another and share public burdens, justice demands that such associations should rest upon a basis which maintains equality instead of destroying it. We therefore declare that, unable longer to endure the curse of monarchical government, we aim at founding a republic, based on universal suffrage, which shall secure to all the intrinsic value of their labour” – Fenian Proclamation 1867.
ON THIS DATE (29TH AUGUST) 215 YEARS AGO : DEATH OF A ‘UNITED IRISHMEN’ FOUNDER.
‘Samuel Neilson was a son of a Presbyterian clergyman, the Rev Alexander Neilson, who ministered the congregation in the Ballyroney (County Down) meeting house, close to the town of Rathfriland. Existing accounts suggest he was born in 1761, but the family Bible and church records state that September 1762 was the date of his birth…the young Neilson would follow his older brother, John, to Belfast, and he was apprenticed in the textile business that would make the brothers wealthy citizens of the town. As a Presbyterian, Neilson was – like his co-religionists in the growing commercial port – unable to vote for the town’s two MPs in the Irish parliament, who were elected by a handful of people appointed by the borough’s owner, the Marquess of Donegall.
The sense of injustice grew during the years that regular troops were withdrawn to serve in north America against the armies of George Washington. To fill the void, volunteer companies were raised across Ireland, and these soon engaged in political debate as the anticipated invasion by France, Britain’s traditional enemy, failed to materialise…calls for a reform of the Irish parliament in Dublin struck a chord with the politically literate Presbyterians and a process of intense politicisation began…’ (from here.)
On the 18th October 1791, a group of socially-minded Protestants, Anglicans and Presbyterians, including the then 30-year-old Samuel Neilson, 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. The intention of those present at that meeting is best summed-up by this statement from the minutes (which would have been relayed, one way or another, to the Dublin Castle ‘authorities’) – “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…impressed with these sentiments…we do pledge ourselves to our country, and mutually to each other..’
And, in 1791, 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.
In 1796, when he was 35 years of age, Samuel Neilson was touted on to the Dublin ‘authorities’ by the informer William Bird (aka ‘John Smith’) and imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail in Dublin. He served 18 months and, although in bad health and financially ruined on his release in February 1798, he continued his work with the United Irishmen and, in May that same year, was imprisoned again by the British. He was held in Ireland for a few months and then transported to Fort George Prison in Scotland in 1799 and, in 1802, he was shipped out again, this time to Hamburg, in Germany, where he was left to his own devices. He managed to return to Ireland, unbeknown to the ‘Crown’, to settle his affairs as best he could. He then made his way, eventually, to New York, in America, where he became involved in journalism. He was now a weakened man, and that city was stricken with ‘Yellow Fever’, so he left New York proper and travelled to the ‘countryside’ – Dutchess County, in southeastern New York.
On the 29th August, 1803 – 215 years ago on this date – in a small town in Duchess County called Poughkeepsie, Samuel Neilson died, aged only 42, and was buried in that town’s ‘Rural Cemetery’. A ‘Northern Star’, and true ‘Felon of our Land’.
By the groans that ascend from your forefathers’ grave
For their country thus left to the brute and the slave,
Drive the demon of bigotry home to his den,
And where Britain made brutes now let Éirinn make men…
”SINN FÉIN IS EVERYTHING ITS NAME IMPLIES – GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE….!’
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, October 1954.
AMERICA PROPPING UP THE EMPIRE.
Senator A. Wiley (Republican) Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, visited Belfast on September 10th to discuss with the Stormont Government “questions of mutual concern”.
During his visit he said : “I am hoping that neither partition nor other local issues in any country becomes so oversized that the people lose sight of the greater issues for the time being – the unity and preservation of their own freedom.”
This statement shows such a misunderstanding of the Irish position that we feel it necessary to enlighten him. The task facing the Irish people is to attain their freedom and to secure the unity of their country. When these have been obtained then we will make plans to preserve them, but they must first of all be obtained.
They can only be obtained when we have persuaded, by argument or otherwise, the occupation forces of America’s ally, England, to withdraw. When these forces have withdrawn then perhaps we may enter into discussions on world freedom. But, while they remain, no amount of platitudes or politicians’ cliches will cloak the fact that we must get rid of the aggressor already within our gates before starting to consider possible aggression from other sources… (MORE LATER.)
ON THIS DATE (29TH AUGUST) 68 YEARS AGO : THE MAN RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ‘SPRING TIDE’ IS BORN.
And sure why wouldn’t he play a game of golf on his birthday? Only a begrudger might say otherwise. And a begrudger might also say that the man could play golf everyday if he wanted to, considering he scored a ‘hole-in-one’ years ago with his pension(s) (and he’s also still in a paid ‘job’!) – whether he’s collecting one or the other (or both!), it must make the arduous journey around the green easier to put up with.
But the ‘Birthday Boy’ apparently had a harder ‘journey’ on the hustlings a few decades ago, according to the ‘IN DUBLIN’ magazine ‘Election Special’, 1987 :
‘Nobody noticed how Ruairi Quinn hi-jacked Dick Spring’s itinerary that day. The plan that had been laid out for Dick in advance included a visit to Ruairi, but when everybody arrived Ruairi had an alternative sheet prepared which he gave to journalists. Other than to have a stand-up row about it, there was really no choice but to go along with the new plan, which included a fair amount of publicity for Ruairi himself, who may not be returned in this election. There was even talk that he might have found himself ‘a job’ in the event of being made redundant by the electorate.
It’s hardly a month since Dick Spring sat at the cabinet table, but in the minds of the Labour Party ministers they have distanced themselves from those awful days. Nowadays, posters of Dick show the man with an open shirt – a ‘Good Man Of The People’ – : his moustache is trimmed, to give it a tamer if sharper look. On the posters at least, the working class hero has finally come home to roost. The day is dark and cold when the bus leaves Labour Party Headquarters ; Dick Spring steps out – ‘People of Ireland, I love you..’. On the bus, the RTE cameras start to roll as the vehicle makes its way down Dorset Street. Passers-by look with amazement as they see James Connolly’s successor (!) answering questions, facing into a camera, in a bus moving through the early morning traffic. Dick has own reservations about touring in buses, and what effect it has on people but, since the other parties do it, Labour would not seem to have a choice. It is a travelling circus.
Dick Spring provides as many photo opportunities as he can think of, to give him the chance to be seen to do as many different things as possible. Except he won’t be doing anything at all ; he’ll just be posing. His first stop of the day is at Guinness’s Brewery in Dublin, where he poses with what looks like a suspended wheel in his hand : he has no idea what the function of this wheel is, but neither does anybody else. The newspaper people tell him where to walk, how to talk. The badge on his lapel says ‘People Matter Most’. The really strange thing about all of this is that Dick Spring never once gets embarrassed about the carry on. Other people might want a break for a minute, but not Dick – he signs the visitors’ book ‘click-click-click-click-click’ goes the cameras.
All of the above was very early in the day. Later, voters would tell Dick how fed-up with politics and politicians they really were. People have lost faith in Fine Gael, in Labour and the other parties that have been playing musical seats for the past seventy years. Dick is taken downstairs to see small engines that were used to transport Guinness in years gone by. He says they’re “fantastic”. It is then time to go on to Camden Street and tie-in with Ruairi Quinn, which is where the day got hi-jacked. Just before the Labour Party bus reached Camden Street, a road worker did a cut-throat sign towards Dick Spring, twice, but Dick never noticed. Later on in the day, a driver gave him a single digit sign, which Dick noticed, and responded to in kind. At Camden Street, Dick is told to wait until everyone is out of the bus before he steps onto the street, as this will provide really good shots of Dick getting off a bus. When Comrade Quinn and Comrade Spring meet each other there is great hugging and kissing, in the Russian fashion, as if the two had not met in years. The Labour Party Office in Camden Street is a dump and looks like a bad squat. There are large bare rooms, some of which are in the process of being painted. Ruairi and Dick head off down Camden Street, and a handler attempts to introduce Dick to the public. An old woman brushes past, saying – “No. I’m not interested in meeting him.”
On Camden Street in Dublin, Dick Spring and Ruairi Quinn talk to the street traders – and are told that business is bad. This is the first real opportunity * they have had to talk to the traders since their last election four years ago and this fact is not lost on the women of Camden Street (‘1169’ Comment – *…rather it’s the first time they have bothered, and even then only because it’s election time again). It was on Ruairi Quinn’s initiative that South African fruit was partially banned from Ireland, but it would appear that the level of Mr Quinn’s understanding is beyond that of those who trade in the ‘forbidden fruit’.
The message as to why the fruit should be banned did not get across. In response to a question, one women says – ” We’ll sell anything we can get a living out of.” And that is the general mood on the street – apathy. People are tired of politicians, politics and promises, and many belong to the ‘don’t-vote-it-only-encourages-them’ school of thought. This, despite the fact that many politicians are of the ‘don’t-vote-it-suits-us’ school of thought. One street trader remarks that ‘you won’t see them until the next time’, and her companion replies ‘That’s it’. One old man says that business is terrible and, just then, a baby is pushed past in a pram and someone asks Dick Spring if he will do the ‘decent thing’ and kiss the baby. “No,” says Dick, “..we’re not in that league. We kiss the mothers.”
Then the issue of drug abuse is briefly raised. A young man tackles Dick Spring about the lack of funding for the Coolmine Drug Treatment Centre and the politician assures him that he will not find his Party wanting in that area . Ruairi Quinn had by now arranged for everybody to go to Grafton Street for another walkabout. There are people walking and talking on Grafton Street, minding their own business, when along comes Dick and shakes their hand and introduces himself and asks for the vote. It is clear that people recognise him but they are far too polite this early in the day to be rude. Ruairi and Dick go into a hairdressers : it’s a great scam and will give rise to loads of photos . So Ruairi combs Dick’s hair and Dick pats Ruairi on the head. Sometime a few years ago, Ruairi had his hair parted by Moses and it hasn’t been the same since.
Phil Coulter is on the amp system singing ‘The Town I Loved So Well’ as the bus reaches Landsdowne Road ; there are thirty-five workers engaged in work close to the river Dodder, developing a park. Needless to say, this is another of Ruairi’s ideas. Some of the lads ask Dick for tickets to see a rugby match, and Dick replies ‘see your man over there’ , pointing at Comrade Quinn. There’s very little really that can’t be ‘fixed up’ if there’s a will, a way and an election. It’s lunch time, so we all head for Kitty O’Shea’s. Ruairi Quinn bought everyone lunch in Kitty O’Shea’s pub. Dick Spring stated that there will be a second election within eighteen months. ” Come on, we’re wasting time. Let’s go ,” says Dick. It’s back across the river and onto the Northside Shopping Centre, Charlie Haughey’s political heartland . Fianna Fail are having a press conference at 3pm that same afternoon and there are very few photographers still with Dick and Ruairi. In any event, many had been under the impression that they would have to pay for their own lunch and this had the effect of diminishing the numbers somewhat.
Dick wanders in and out, into a shop here, a fast food joint there. Two customers, who appear to be engrossed in some sort of deal, are frozen with horror as they see Dick advance towards them with hand outstretched. One of them tells Dick that he should have run the full term of Office, whilst the other is “disgusted” by what the Labour Party has done but, before the argument can proceed , Dick is pulled away by a handler to sign an autograph. Whatever one may say about Dick Spring, he is not afraid to be challenged about his four years in government(‘1169’ Comment -…providing he has a ‘handler’ present to pull him away to sign autographs). On water rates, Dick said he would ‘change the system’ : one woman said her mother was stopped a pension because she ‘had a few pounds from England’, while a second woman cannot get a medical card. Dick replied that he ‘will see what we can do’. In reply to men out of work that he meets, he says that what is needed is a strong Labour Party but they seem unimpressed. One of them replied that he used vote Labour until Micko did the dirt on him. And so the travelling circus moves on.
The reception everywhere to Dick and Ruairi is similar : one man with a child refuses to stop and passes by. “He doesn’t care, he’s a Sinn Fein man”, says someone else, pointing to the child. “Did you see the funny man going by?” he asks the child, “Did you see the man with the moustache…”. All of those belonging to the Labour Party camp-circus ignore the man and the child.
Supermarkets! You look after the kids all day and then you go out shopping. Now it’s getting on towards evening and you’re tired. You’re pushing the trolley along wishing you were at home. As you reach for that tin of beans, your hand is grabbed, and a Dick is there pumping it up and down, telling you who he is, introducing people to you, asking you for your vote. It rarely dawns on anybody that this man has been ‘Deputy Prime Minister’ for the last four years. You’re so surprised you just stand there and say nothing. Stalking between the shelves of supermarkets looking for innocent voters to accost is pretty safe because of the element of surprise. Dick wonders if it is of any benefit at all. One woman says she won’t be voting at all as she doesn’t believe in politics. Another shopper says she wore a blueshirt and is not afraid to say so. A third woman tells Dick that she has been living in uninhabitable conditions for twelve years and, for Dick, this suddenly becomes a priority. Something will be done, he says. But not just now, alas, as it’s time to move on to the hotel. Dick spots a building site across the road from the hotel.
You work on a building site. You might have had a few jars the night before and maybe you don’t feel too well. You might be thinking about getting home for something to eat. But right now you are down a hole, digging it deeper. Suddenly you hear “How’s it goin’ lads?” You look up and there’s Dick Spring looking down into the hole, smiling : he asks if the digging is going okay. That can be very un-nerving. Dick wanders off and starts to ‘level’ some concrete with a piece of timber, and lets it be known that he once worked on a building site. Nobody mentions that perhaps it might have been a good idea if he had stayed there. Dick gets a hard hat and a sledgehammer and poses for local photographers beside a bucket of concrete. ‘Dick The Builder’, photographed filling a bucket of concrete with a sledgehammer. Someone remarks that Dick was known as a very dirty player on the sportsfield and Dick doesn’t deny this. Dirty play is now parading as virtue. “Still am. When I don’t get my own way, I walk off the pitch”, he says.
Later, on the way into a hotel, Dick notices that a poster of Dessie O’Malley has had eyeshadow and lipstick painted in. “Graffiti with taste,” he remarks. The political-circus bus drives on : Malahide, then Swords. At a shopping centre, it’s time to talk to the punters again. The reaction is not great for the party leader who claims to represent the working class. Indeed, one woman says she will only vote for him when he gets her husband back to work, another woman says only when he gets her husband back from his job in England, and a third woman says only when he gets her a grant for some building work that she’s trying to get done. A nurse says she will vote for Barry Desmond as she admires him, even though she wouldn’t agree with everything he has done. But by now the timetable is getting loused up and Dick is led away by his handlers.
When this travelling political circus reaches the town of Rush in North County Dublin, one man says that the Labour Party should have pulled out of government long ago ; he is about sixty years of age and sounds very bitter – “I voted Labour last time but never again. You let me down. You said Fianna Fail and Fine Gael were six of one and half dozen of the other and then ye go in with Fine Gael! Youse are all gangsters. Justin Keating fucked up your seat here and you’ll never get it back. What about the PD’s? What about the Provos..?” It goes on and on, but Dick Spring hasn’t time to argue the toss. There are other places to visit. Like the nearest pub. In the pub, Dick gives a bit of a speech. It’s for the benefit of the party workers in the area : “Vote one-two as often as you can between here and the next town. It’s a good constituency. Let’s not be beaten by fifty or sixty votes. Let’s go out there and do it. Vote early and vote often!” Fightin’ talk. In the town of Balbriggan, Dick tells people that he’s going to build up a strong Labour Party and that this is “necessary”. One woman says that she’s promising nothing, but that she’ll think about voting for Labour, to which Dick replies that he isn’t promising anything either. Another woman has a problem with bus-fares for her kids going to school and one of the Labour Party people makes a note of it and promises that something will be done.
Dick is uneasy walking around shaking people’s hands, as he’s not sure where the next attack might come from. There is no urgency or vibrancy to his personal appearances in public, unlike say that of Charlie Haughey, but then Dick’s demeanour may be due to the last four years in government with Fine Gael where there has been a war of attrition. The best Dick Spring can say of the last four years in government with Fine Gael is that his party curbed the worst excesses of the latter, but this fine distinction is lost on an electorate which has become cynical about the whole political process. The six workers who have travelled with Dick all day in the bus finally get introduced to their leader – they had been handing out leaflets and canvassing all day. Then it’s time to go to the town of Navan, where Dick signs an autograph for a twelve-year-old boy and, while he is doing this, three other young lads see and recognise him as they are going up a stairs. They start to chant “Sinn Féin, Sinn Féin”, but are ignored by Dick. Now it’s nearly 8pm. Other speeches have to be delivered elsewhere. At times throughout the day, Dick ignored some people who weren’t interested in what he had to say and one could not help but wonder if voters care at all whether or not they get to hear him, now or at any other time.’
Not to worry, Dick – you have a happy birthday, now, safe in the knowledge that all that carry-on is in the past and the ‘Labour Party’ couldn’t possibly suffer like that again…!
NEWS, COMMENTS ETC.
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, February 1955.
‘AN CUMANN CABHRAC…
Collection details – Athenry and District £90 10 shillings 1penny, Galway City and District £163 1 4, North Galway £74 10 10, Tuam and District £160 0 0, East Galway £110 0 0, Roscommon £130 15 4, Kildare (balance) £46 0 0.
KERRY : Tralee £100 0 shillings 0 pence, Cahirciveen £132 10 0, Brandon £22 10 0, Ardee £24 0 0, Ballylongford £26 1 3, Ballydonoghue £9 5 0.
CORK : Cork City £165 0 shillings 0 pence, Skibbereen £120 3 6, Waterford City £140 0 0, Limerick £48 0 0, Lisnagarvey £25 13 0, Cavan £112 15 0, Drogheda £73 10 0, Carlingford £21 1 1, Dundalk (balance) £35 9 6…. (MORE LATER.)
BLOG AWARDS 2018 : OUR CLAIM TO (or attempt at…!) FAME! We’re up against some rock hard competition here, so sit back and watch us get our arse kicked. Again…!
(…and if any of the ‘Blog Award’ judges are reading this, we’ll also accept an ‘Also Ran’ plaque…!)
VIEW FROM THE HILLTOP CAFE…
A cafe at Drumcree and the insights it offers into the Orangemen who frequent it. Carl Whyte paid a visit. From ‘Magill’ magazine, July 2002.
“Protestants don’t want Sinn Féin in government and that’s that”, says Victor, a local farmer. Nearly all present in the cafe (pictured) had been UUP voters, but all abandoned it because of David Trimble’s stance on the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ (Stormont Treaty) and they now vote for the DUP, a party completely opposed to that Agreement. Perhaps the saddest comment of the night surrounds the murder of the Quinn children in Ballymoney in 1998. The entire six counties were paralysed with civil disturbance because permission had not been granted for the parade at Drumcree. In the early hours of the 12th of July, members of the local UVF launched a petrol-bomb attack on the house of Chrissy Quinn in the Carnany Estate – Richard, Mark and Jason Quinn all died in the ensuing inferno.
Former RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan said that the attack was sectarian and linked to the Drumcree protest and many Orangemen deserted the protest at Drumcree following that tragedy but, in subsequent days, the Orange Order denied that their protests had led to those murders. In the cafe at Drumcree, those present volunteered their explanation – “Drug related. The Orangemen were nothing to do with it.”
The ‘Loyal Orange Institution’ was founded on the 21st September 1795 and is more commonly known as the ‘Orange Order’. It was established after the infamous ‘Battle of the Diamond’, a sectarian battle that took place in fields near Portadown. It pledges to uphold civil and religious liberties and its condemnation of religious ideology ‘is directed against church doctrine and not against individual adherents or members’. It has lodges as far away as Canada and Togo, but it is most concentrated in Northern Ireland (sic), with a few lodges in Ulster counties in the Republic (sic) as well as some in Scotland.
Among its past members are four Prime Ministers of Northern Ireland (sic – how can six counties out of a nine-county Irish province have a ‘Prime Minister’?!)) as well as the current UUP leader, David Trimble. Orangemen are forbidden from attending services in any Catholic church and Mr. Trimble was censured by his local lodge for attending the funeral service of a Catholic child killed in the Omagh bombing… (MORE LATER).
LAST COMMENT (FOR THIS YEAR!) RE OUR NYC HOLIDAY….
‘Hell’s Kitchen. Hell Gate. Richard Hell. The signs (and wonders) are everywhere. Abandon all hope : New York City is a living hell of renegade capital, exploited labour, racial hatred, institutional misogyny, and bodega cats. You must say goodbye. Or is it a neoliberal paradise, imperfect yet lovable, where capital and culture and rats roam free?
In recent times, the battle lines for this Cold War have been drawn by dueling essay collections, like Goodbye to All That vs. Never Can Say Goodbye. (Thankfully John Freeman’s beautifully careworn Tales of Two Cities avoids the question altogether.) Both collections have their merits and faults, and yet I can’t shake the notion that they’re actually the same book. You are saying goodbye ; you can never say goodbye. If New York City is truly a Dantean Inferno — and I’m inclined to think it is — what makes any of us believe that we can ever truly leave? The entire point of hell is its inescapability, and New York is no different. You can leave it in body, sure ; I’ve left several times. But you’ll come back. Or at least your mind will remain here, and you’ll still be writing essays about that time you told it to fuck off…’ (from here).
Like the author, my friends and I can’t say ‘Goodbye’ to New York. But the only time we tell that city to ‘f**k off’ is when we’re told we have to go home from there. Hopefully, next year, we’ll apologise for doing so…
Thanks for reading, Sharon.