ON THIS DATE (31ST MARCH) 47 YEARS AGO : IRA POW IN ENGLISH JAIL JOINS THE HUNGER-STRIKE.
Michael Gaughan (pictured), the eleventh Irish republican to die on hunger strike, was four months away from celebrating his 25th birthday.
Immortalised in song by Seamus Robinson, Michael Gaughan was an IRA activist in England and, in December 1971, he found himself in front of a British judge in the Old Bailey, where he was sentenced to seven years in Wormwood Scrubs for taking part in a (republican fund-raising) bank raid in north London.
Two years later, he was transferred to Albany Prison on the Isle of Wight and demanded that he be treated as a political prisoner. This was refused and he was placed in solitary confinement before being moved to Parkhurst Prison, also on the Isle of Wight. On the 31st of March, 1974 – 47 years ago, on this date – Michael Gaughan joined an on-going hunger-strike protest and, after 23 days, he was force-fed : the tube that was forced down his throat punctured his lung, killing him, in Parkhurst Prison, on the 3rd of June, 1974.
His body was removed from London and on Friday and Saturday, 7th and 8th June 1974, thousands of mourners lined the streets of Kilburn and marched behind his coffin, which was flanked by an IRA guard of honour, to a requiem mass held in the ‘Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus’ in Kilburn.
On that Saturday (8th June 1974), his body was transported to Dublin where, again, he was met by mourners and another IRA guard of honour (pictured) who brought him to the Adam and Eve Franciscan church on Merchant’s Quay, where thousands filed past as the body lay in state. The following day, his body was removed to Ballina, County Mayo. The funeral mass took place on the 9th June, at St. Muredach’s Cathedral, Ballina, and the procession then went to Leigue Cemetery, Ballina.
Michael Gaughan was given a full republican burial and was laid to rest in the republican plot. Mayo republican Jackie Clarke (Seán Ó Clérigh, whose family later had political disagreements with the Provisional Sinn Féin party) presided at the last obsequies, and the oration at his graveside was given by Dáithí Ó Conaill, who stated that Gaughan “..had been tortured in prison by the vampires of a discredited empire who were joined by decrepit politicians who were a disgrace to the name of Irishmen…”. His coffin was draped in the same Tricolour that was used for Terence McSwiney’s funeral 54 years earlier. He left a final message in which he stated – “I die proudly for my country and in the hope that my death will be sufficient to obtain the demands of my comrades. Let there be no bitterness on my behalf, but a determination to achieve the new Ireland for which I gladly die. My loyalty and confidence is to the IRA and let those of you who are left carry on the work and finish the fight.”
And today, 47 years after Michael Gaughan was buried, republicans are still working towards that same objective.
By Matt Furlong.
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, June, 1955.
‘The river winds its way into the deep,
the lark will chant its lay and soar the sky,
if the eagle were in fetters would he keep
the spirit of the free, or would he die?
For thus it is the grievings in our hearts,
the symbol of our freedom it is seen,
oppressed when such oppression smarts
and a longing, deep, to see again the Green.
Unfurled and flowing free upon the wind
as the eagle when he soars above the hills,
glorying in his freedom, and his kind,
subdueing not to any other wills…’ (MORE LATER.)
ON THIS DATE (31ST MARCH) 162 YEARS AGO : ‘IRISH INDEPENDENT PARTY’ DISBANDS.
In 1852, ‘The Irish Brigade’ ( a ‘pressure-group’ which lobbied Westminster on behalf of the Catholic Church, its members, and its ‘flock’) and ‘The Tenant Right League’ joined forces to get the ‘Ecclesiastical Titles Bill’ revoked and, in July that year (1852) the new grouping came together as ‘The Independent Irish Party’ (IIP).
The ‘IIP’ declared that “legislative independence is the clear, eternal and inalienable right of this country, and that no settlement of the affairs of Ireland can be permanent until that right is recognised and established…(we will) take the most prompt and effective measures for the protection of the lives and interests of the Irish people, and the attainment of their natural rights…”
John Sadleir and William Keogh, two of the more prominent MP’s in ‘The Independent Irish Party’ (of which there were about forty, as the new ‘IIP’ was joined by Irish MP’s in Westminster) , like all the other ‘IIP’ representatives, took a pledge not to accept any Office in a Westminster administration or to co-operate with same until, among other things, the ‘Ecclesiastical Titles Bill’ was done away with ; however, the British had seen developments like this elsewhere in their ’empire’ and were preparing to manoeuvre things in their own favour.
The new ‘Independent Irish Party’ was flexing its muscle ; as William Keogh (a barrister and MP for Athlone) put it – “I will not support any party which does not make it the first ingredient of their political existence to repeal the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill. So help me God …” By this stage, Charles Gavan Duffy had been elected as an ‘Independent Irish Party’ MP to Westminster, representing the New Ross area of Wexford.
The ‘IIP’, with forty members elected to Westminster, did actually hold the balance of power in ‘Lord’ Derby’s Tory-led government in Westminster and so pressed their claims with that administration regarding the ‘Titles Bill’ and other matters pertaining to Ireland – but they got no satisfaction from ‘Lord’ Derby or any of his Ministers, so the ‘IIP’ ‘pulled the plug’ and the British government of the day collapsed.
The main opposition party in Westminster, the ‘Whigs’, led by ‘Lord’ Aberdeen (pictured), apparently promised John Sadleir IIP MP and William Keogh IIP MP that the ‘Whigs’ would be sympathetic to the interests of the ‘Independent Irish Party’ and the two Irish MP’s, in turn, passed this information on to the ruling body of their own party and it was agreed to support the ‘Whigs’ in their bid for power which, with ‘IIP’ support, they got.
But no sooner had ‘Lord’ Aberdeen climbed into the prime ministerial chair when his political promises to Sadleir and Keogh were cast aside ; he was, it seems, prepared to ‘honour’ part of the agreement he made with the ‘Independent Irish Party’ representatives and party, but not enough to satisfy them, and certainly not enough when compared with what he said he would do. This led to rows and bickering within the ‘IIP’, a signal which ‘Lord’ Aberdeen picked-up on and used to his own advantage, in true British ‘divide-and-conquer’-style.
‘Lord’ Aberdeen offered John Sadleir IIP MP the position of ‘Lord of The Treasury’ in the new British administration, and also ‘threw a bone’ to the other dog, William Keogh IIP MP – that of the Office of British Solicitor-General for Ireland and, despite already having their parsnips well buttered, both men took the offer, and the Catholic Church, subservient as ever to the British, when push came to shove, supported them for doing so!
This tore not only the ‘Independent Irish Party’ asunder (although it did manage to ‘hobble’ on for another few years, disintegrating along the way) until finally it disbanded on the 31st March 1859 – 162 years ago, on this date – but it also disappointed Charles Gavan Duffy IIP MP, one of the more prominent members of the party, so much so that, in October 1855, he emigrated to Australia in despair.
As ‘Lord of The (British) Treasury’, John Sadleir aspired to a lifestyle which he no doubt considered to be his of right – he was, after all, a British Minister and he also owned, by now, a community-type bank/financial house, in Ireland – the ‘Tipperary Joint Stock Bank’ (pictured) : however, such was his taste for the fine life and his desire to ‘keep in’ with his new ‘friends’, when his bank was found to be shy by over one million pounds the shame was too much and he killed himself in 1856.
However, his old buddy, the British Solicitor-General for Ireland, William Keogh, somehow managed to ‘soldier-on’ and was asked to perform another task for his British pay-masters and he became a British Judge, in Ireland, during the infamous Fenian Trials of 1865-1867, where he verbally cracked many an Irish rebel skull, saving his employers from getting their hands even more bloodier. His conscience must have eventually got the better of him because, in 1878, he, too, killed himself. It could only make you wonder that, had he a bank to embezzle, would he have lived longer?
Despite success at the polls, and having the ‘ear’ of the political bosses and the ‘respect’ of the British ‘establishment’ and good, favourable media coverage, being well-dressed, well-spoken and well-paid, if you lose your political principles, you’re finished – draw your own conclusions….
NO RIGHT OF APPEAL…
Why the media consensus on a broad range of issues is increasingly disturbing.
By John Drennan.
From ‘Magill’ Annual, 2002.
Mary Ellen Synon was one of the ‘bad journalists’* ; it was bad enough that she was a conservative, and her a woman, but she was also controversial. She didn’t like Tribunals, or Social Partnership, or the Peace Process, or our new liberal junta. Worse still, she was original. A very bad bit of stuff indeed. They had been waiting in the long grass for Mary Ellen Synon for a long time.
Eventually, after she wrote a piece about the evils of moral equivalence which included the infelicitous use of a metaphor involving the Special Olympics (‘1169’ comment – she wrote about those who take part in the paralympics as being “grotesque…perverse…wobble in a wheelchair…swim by Braille..” ; in other words, she actually jumped out of “the long grass” and quite willingly surrendered herself on the Altar of Decency..), the mob was released. Her chosen epithets were offensive, and indefensible, but only a fool would construe the ensuing media melee as a reaction against those few badly chosen words
It was a reaction against her entire outlook – an outlook she had been ‘getting away with’ for too long. When she eventually fell through her own thin ice, there followed a stirring display of journalistic unity ; blowhard radio presenters joined hand-in-glove with a woeful feminist clique to note that explanations and apologises were not enough.
In this particular Salem, as the sisterhood wailed “Where is Mary Ellen’s heart..?”, only the destruction* of her career would do. The likes of it not been seen since the time when John McGahern was forced out of his teaching job by a similar mob****…
(‘1169’ Comment –Mary Ellen Synon uses words, as best she can, to cause outrage and, in so doing, make a name for herself. She isn’t a journalist in the proper sense of that word. She is a ‘sensationalist’ writer, and will put pen to paper over whatever issue she believes will obtain the most publicity for herself and for whichever ‘newspaper’ it is at the time that has employed her.//* Those words were purposely chosen rather than “badly chosen” // *** Self-destruction, – not a “destruction” of someone else’s making. // **** A chalk and cheese comparison, if even that, in our opinion.)
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, March, 1955.
£14,000 Per Year :
It was announced recently in London that the salary and expenses of the English Governor General in the Six Counties would be a total of £14,000 per year. It was stated that part of this sum would be paid by the British Government and part by Stormont.
If the matter were examined closely it would be discovered that the people of the Six Counties will pay it all ; through the reserved services, income tax, indirect taxation (tobacco, liquor, purchase tax etc) Britain drains off from the Six Counties more than is returned in doles and grants.
At the same time it was announced in Belfast that a vast number of workers would become redundant in the Belfast shipyards. A huge protest demonstration was held by the shipyard workers ; they all marched to a public meeting in the city centre and were addressed by an English trade union official. Hurrah for the demonstration!
But we would urge the Belfast workers to examine closely the causes of their impending unemployment and not pay too much attention to the harangues of English leaders, whether Labour, Conservative or Liberal ; unemployment, the dole, hunger and misery – these are the recurring fruits of English control of Irish economic and political life…
ON THIS DATE (31ST MARCH) 150 YEARS AGO : SINN FÉIN FOUNDER/TREATY OF SURRENDER SUPPORTER BORN IN DUBLIN.
One of the leaflets (pictured) distributed by Irish republicans in late 1921 to counteract anti-republican propaganda that the ‘Treaty (of Surrender)’ was “a stepping stone” to that which they had fought for – indeed, one of those who accepted that Treaty, ex-republican Arthur Griffith, declared, in a press release immediately after signing same – “I have signed a Treaty of peace between Ireland and Great Britain. I believe that treaty will lay foundations of peace and friendship between the two Nations. What I have signed I shall stand by in the belief that the end of the conflict of centuries is at hand.”
Yet historian Nicholas Mansergh noted that, at practically the same time as Griffith had penned the above, the British were talking between themselves of “…concessions (from the Irish) wrung by devices..some of which can be described at best as devious..every word used and every nuance was so important…”
Arthur Joseph Griffith (Art Ó Griobhtha, pictured) was born at 61 Upper Dominick Street, Dublin on 31st March 1871 – 150 years ago on this date – into a working-class family. He was educated by the Irish Christian Brothers and earned a living as a skilled printer and typesetter. He joined the Gaelic League during the 1890’s and was also a member of the ‘Irish Republican Brotherhood’ (IRB).
At 34 years of age he founded a new political organisation, ‘Sinn Féin’ (on the 28th November 1905) to raise support for his own personal political notion that a ‘dual government’ of Britain and Ireland was the best solution to England’s ‘Irish Problem’ ; he saw no value in Fenian-style armed rebellion and believed that ‘passive resistance’, including a refusal to pay Crown taxes, creating independent Irish courts and an Irish civil service, taking control of local authorities and boycotting British products, would achieve his required objective ie for this country to become part of a dual monarchy under the British crown and prosper, financially, as a result. His aim was “to make England take one hand from Ireland’s throat and the other out of Ireland’s pocket…” but the Sinn Féin organisation didn’t fully support the objectives and methods as laid down by Griffith.
The Sinn Féin organisation, when established by Arthur Griffith and others, consisted of an amalgamation of Cumann na nGaedheal, the National Council (which was founded in the main to organise protests at the visit of the British King, Edward VII, and included in its ranks Edward Martyn, Séamus McManus and Maud Gonne) and the Dungannon Clubs, a largely IRB-dominated republican campaign group.
Contrary to the perception which has been advanced by some that Sinn Féin in its first years was not republican in character but rather sought a limited form of Home Rule on the dual monarchist model, Brian O’Higgins (pictured), a founding member of Sinn Féin, who took part in the 1916 Rising, and was a member of the First and Second Dáil, remaining a steadfast republican up to his death in 1962, had this to say in his Wolfe Tone Annual of 1949 :
“It is often sought to be shown that the organisation set up in 1905 was not republican in form or spirit, that it only became so in 1917, but this is an erroneous idea, and is not borne out by the truths of history. Anyone who goes to the trouble of reading its brief constitution will see that its object was ‘the re-establishment of the independence of Ireland’. The Constitution of Sinn Féin in 1905, and certainly the spirit of it, was at least as clearly separatist as was the constitution of Sinn Féin in and after 1917, no matter what private opinion regarding the British Crown may have been held by Arthur Griffith…”
In 1917, Griffith stood down as President of Sinn Féin (de Valera took the position) because the organisation had become more republican-minded than he felt comfortable with, although he maintained his membership. He also had strong differences of opinion with the trade union leadership in Ireland over strike action, as he felt that such activity was counter-productive as it damaged Irish trade, overall, and that opinion, and other such political naratives, helped to secure his election as a ‘Sinn Féin MP’ in the East Cavan by-election in June 1918, and he held the seat in the General Election of that same year (and he was also returned for the seat of Tyrone North West).
Griffith and Michael Collins, and others, were sent to London by de Valera to negotiate the ‘Anglo-Irish Treaty’ (the ‘Treaty of Surrender’) and, on the 6th December, 1921, he signed it and declared that “..the end of the conflict of centuries is at hand..” (see our opening paragraph, above). Incidentally, Collins and Griffith (both pro-Treaty) had pressurised at least one of their colleagues, Robert Childers Barton (the Irish Minister for Economic Affairs) to accept the Treaty of Surrender, telling him that if he did not sign then he would be responsible for “Irish homes (being) laid waste and the youth of Ireland (being) butchered..” and, at about 11pm on Monday, 5th December 1921, Barton signed the document.
The stress and strain on Arthur Griffith took its toll and, on the 12th August, 1922, in his 51st year, he died, in Dublin, from heart failure and cerebral haemorrhage, and is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery. The poor man went to his grave being wrong about “the end of the conflict of centuries” being at hand. The only Treaty that will secure that is one which witnesses the withdrawal of the British claim of jurisdictional control over any part of Ireland ; no ‘fine words’ offering a half-way house will be accepted by Irish republicans.
Thanks for reading,