ON THIS DATE (1ST MARCH) 42 YEARS AGO : BOBBY SANDS BEGAN HIS HUNGER STRIKE IN LONG KESH PRISON.
The 1981 hunger strike was the culmination of a five-year protest during this on-going struggle by Irish republican prisoners.
A ‘blanket protest’ began in 1976 when the British government withdrew ‘Special Category Status’ for political prisoners and, in 1978, after a number of attacks on prisoners leaving their cells to ‘slop out’, the protest escalated into the ‘dirty protest’, where prisoners refused to leave their cells to wash and covered the walls of their cells with excrement.
In 1980, seven prisoners participated in the first hunger strike, which ended after 53 days then, on Sunday, 1st March 1981 – 42 years ago on this date – (P)IRA POW Bobby Sands began his hunger strike.
He received widespread media attention for his protest and more so when, on the 9th April 1981, he was elected as an abstentionist member in a Leinster House (Free State ‘parliament’) election, after being nominated to contest the seat by Dáithí Ó Conaill, the then vice president of the then Sinn Féin organisation.
Bobby Sands was, as far as Irish republicans are concerned, a ‘Teachta Dála’ (TD) who was elected to take a seat in a 32-county Irish parliament, unlike the Free State representatives who sit in an institution in Kildare Street in Dublin today and claim to be ‘TD’s in the Irish parliament’ and, indeed, Bobby’s motives and those of Dáithí and the other then Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle members who nominated him to contest the election were pure, unlike the motives of the self-serving time-keepers who sit in that Kildare Street premises today : the motives of the former involved a principled unwillingness to allow themselves and the struggle they were part of to be criminalised and to highlight to the world that they were fighting a political struggle against Westminster and its allies in this country.
Bobby Sands was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for his alleged part in a fire-bombing campaign which, as part of an economic war against the British presence in Ireland, targeted business premises (in this instance, the Balmoral Furniture Company) with the intention of making it financially unviable for Britain to maintain its grip on that part of Ireland, a fact which present-day Provisional Sinn Féin and other Leinster House members seek to ignore or gloss over when referencing what they call ‘the ineffectual/grubby deeds’ of those who continue that struggle today.
On the 9th April, 1981, Bobby Sands was elected by 30,492 of those that voted in the Fermanagh/South Tyrone district, prompting, years later, this thesis from a republican leader –
“Contrary to allegations made in the news media, there was not a straight line from the election of Bobby Sands in 1981 to the Stormont Agreement of 1998. Rather was the line from March, April and May 1981 to the same months in 1998 disfigured and distorted by an internal power-struggle for the leadership of Sinn Féin accompanied and followed by deceit and artifice as the ideals of Bobby Sands were steadily perverted and a section of the then powerful revolutionary Republican Movement turned into a constitutional party..” (from here).
Bobby Sands, 9th March 1954 – 5th May 1981. RIP.
‘TRIBUTE TO DEAD REPUBLICAN…’
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, April 1955.
Oration given by Tomas MacCurtain at the grave of Domhnall Mac Suibhne, Ahane, Cullen, County Cork, who was laid to rest on March 7th 1955 –
“Never in the thirty-odd years that have passed has the voice or pen of Domhnall Mac Suibhne been still when a wrong was to be condemned or a right to be upheld.
All through those bitter years when he saw old friends and comrades turning away from him because he was too honourable to bow the knee to political expediency he remained true to the old cause and preached the old doctrine.
It is sad to think that, having endured the long years of political cynicism, he should die when the tide is about to turn and that he should not be here to witness in the near future the miracle of which Pearse spoke over the grave of another courageous and noble soul –
“That miracle which ripens in the heart of young men the seeds sown by the young men of a former generation.”
I do not think it unfitting that, standing at his grave, I should say the words which he would say if he were alive…”
ON THIS DATE (1ST MARCH) 175 YEARS AGO : ‘STARVATION FEVER’ ARTICLE PUBLISHED.
An article entitled ‘Starvation Fever of 1847’ was published in the ‘Dublin Medical Press’ periodical on this date – 1st March – 175 years ago (1848). The author was a Dr. Daniel Donovan, Skibbereen, Cork, and that article helped to focus world attention on the attempted genocide (‘An Gorta Mór/The Great Hunger’) that was obliterating the Irish people at that time –
‘Dr. Donovan…emerges as one of the most heroic figures of An Gorta Mór…a bold and successful surgeon, an oculist and a general practitioner, a talented and prolific author and a champion of the oppressed and destitute Irish people..(he) was unambitious and unselfish and chose to remain in Skibbereen where patients came to consult him not only from other parts of Ireland but from England and Scotland, some even taking the long Atlantic crossing from America..’
In the article, Dr. Donovan wrote – “Although the fever which committed such frightful ravages during the entire of 1847 has in a great degree subsided, yet we cannot, I fear, hope that the enemy is altogether subdued, more particularly as want and misery (to an extreme degree) are likely to be the lot of the majority of our population for the ensuing spring and summer ; and the privations of the poor, as regards food (and) clothes seemed last year to generate that epidemic which, like the rod of Aaron, has swallowed up the memory of its predecessors, and compared with which the pestilence of 1741 (proverbially known as the ‘year of slaughter’) scarcely deserves notice.
When the sanitary condition of London is attracting so much the attention of the legislature ; when commissions are daily held, and reports daily made, upon questions regarding the health of the metropolis ; when so much laudable indignation is expressed at having the sinks and cess-pools of St. Giles’s and the borough lead to the annual loss of a few thousand lives, from the exuberant population of the ‘great wen’, it is remarkable that so little notice has been directed to the subject of fever in Ireland, more particularly that of last year, which (independent of other diseases) has destroyed, at the lowest calculation, five hundred thousand human beings – swept off from among the better classes the most useful and benevolent members of society, and has created an amount of orphanage and widowhood that will for years press down the energies of the industrious.
The immense havoc of last year can be best estimated by comparing the mortality with that of 1741 and 1817, years that are chronicled among the melancholy eras of our unfortunate country…whilst starvation and squalor, the causes that engendered this plague, continue to prevail among the people of this country, it is absurd to think that fever will limit its ravages to the poor, or confine its visitation to Ireland.
Generated in the damp, dark cabins of the half-starved peasants, it will reach the mansions of the wealthy despite of stone walls, and iron gates, and sturdy janitors, and will spread to our more fortunate neighbours on the other side of the channel, in defiance of vagrancy acts and quarantine regulations ; and in vain will the sewerage of London be improved, and the cellars of Liverpool be rendered less pestilential, unless that the physical and social condition of the Irish people be raised ; for so long as their present abject misery continues, so long will the generation of wide-spreading epidemics be perpetuated…”
And this, too, from different witnesses of that time, deserves to be highlighted : “In Co. Armagh, 400 paupers have died in Lurgan workhouse in the past eight weeks…50 deaths in Kilkenny poorhouse last week, with 520 patients in the fever hospital…I met 50 skeletons of cows, scarcely able to move, driven to pound for the last May rent…in one house a corpse lies for the last four days ; no one could be got to enter it to relieve the dying, or remove the putrified victim…in Rosscarbery, Co Cork, a man decapitates two children while stealing food. In the same neighbourhood a woman is jailed for taking vegetables ; on being released she finds her children have died of starvation…there are nearly 1,000 prisoners in Cork county jail charged with larceny and sheep stealing, one tenth of whom have typhus fever…in Kilkenny, a 13 year old boy breaks three panes of glass in a shop window so as to be transported and taken “from his hardship”…the most doleful of all sights and sounds is to hear and see starving women and children attempting to sing for alms…in Ballaghaderreen, a child aged two dies of hunger in its mother’s arms during Mass…when a poor woman comes home to her children in Killeshan, Co Carlow, one of them, maddened by hunger, bites off part of her arm…in Donoughmore, Co Cork, Father Michael Lane writes in the baptismal register: “There died of the Famine from November 1846 to February 1847, over 1,400 of the people (almost a third of the population) and one priest, Dan Horgan…numbers remained unburied for over a fortnight, many were buried without a coffin…” (from here).
Oscar Wilde’s mother, Jane Elgee (aka ‘Speranza’, Jane Francesca Agnes, Lady Wilde, pictured), in her mid-20’s at the time, was moved to write the following :
Weary men, what reap ye?
Golden corn for the stranger.
What sow ye?
Human corpses that wait for the avenger.
Fainting forms, hunger-stricken, what see you in the offing?
Stately ships to bear our food away, amid the stranger’s scoffing.
They guard our masters’ granaries from the thin hands of the poor.
Pale mothers, wherefore weeping?
Would to God that we were dead.
Our children swoon before us, and we cannot give them bread …we are wretches, famished, scorned, human tools to build your pride,
But God will yet take vengeance for the souls for whom Christ died.
Now is your hour of pleasure
bask ye in the world’s caress;
But our whitening bones against ye will rise as witnesses,
From the cabins and the ditches, in their charred, uncoffin’d masses,
For the Angel of the Trumpet will know them as he passes.
A ghastly, spectral army, before the great God we’ll stand,
And arraign ye as our murderers, the spoilers of our land.
That good woman sums-up the despair and anger felt then, and still felt to this day.
As it should be.
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON…
From ‘Magill’ Annual, 2002.
Why, elect him President of Ireland.
‘Wigmore’ senses your reaction and begs you to persist as the argument unfolds.
Firstly, niggling constitutional issues regarding our favourite President’s right to a nomination could be swept aside by a referendum of the type we as a nation (sic) seem somewhat addicted to ; in the clause which demands that the President be a citizen of the republic of Ireland (sic) we need only insert the caveat ‘unless the President’s name is William Jefferson Clinton’. That motion would be passed with record approval.
We could, while we are at it, make him exempt from any other Irish laws which he might deem unsavoury or unwarranted so that he might enjoy a smoother presidential ride on this side of the Atlantic than he has done heretofore…
ON THIS DATE (1ST MARCH) 26 YEARS AGO : A NON-SLEEPING EGG CURRIE SPEAKS…
“We didn’t sleep..” – the reply given by Tory politician Edwina Currie to a ‘Twitter’ user who stated she had slept with John Major. In the same year that she had put all her eggs in one basket, she was named as runner-up to Margaret Thatcher in BBC Radio 4’s ‘Women of the Year’ poll but it is for her snide remark about the Irish that she is best remembered for here : she was quoted in ‘The Sun’ newspaper on the 1st March 1997 – 26 years ago on this date – giving her views on Irish people – “They’re so intelligent, the Irish. Give them an education and they can do anything. I remember the first time I met an Irish accountant. I laughed because I couldn’t believe it : an Irish accountant…!”
Oh but we’re good with figures, Edwina : 1+1+6+9 = 854 and 26+6 = 1.
And you can count on that.
ON THIS DATE (1ST MARCH) 58 YEARS AGO : IRISH PATRIOT RE-INTERRED IN GLASNEVIN CEMETERY, DUBLIN.
Pictured – Roger Casement’s body being re-interred (on Monday, 1st March 1965 – 58 years ago on this date) in the Republican Plot in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, having been released by the British from Pentonville Prison in Islington, North London.
He was born on the 1st September, 1864, in Sandycove, County Dublin, the son of Captain Roger Casement of the 3rd Dragoon Guards of the British Army and Anne Jephson from Mallow, County Cork. His mother had him secretly baptised in her own religion, Roman Catholic, but he was raised in the Protestant faith of his father. As both his parents died young, Roger was taken in by an uncle, near Ballycastle, County Antrim, and educated as a boarder at the diocesan school in Ballymena.
From 1895 onwards he held consular appointments at various locations in Africa, including Boma in the Congo (1904) where, for the British Foreign Office, he investigated Belgian human rights abuses of the indigenous people. Later, in Peru, he was commissioned to undertake a report on the reported abuse of workers in the rubber industry in the Putumayo basin, which earned him a knighthood after his findings were published as a parliamentary paper (1911). He had been a member of the Gaelic League and became increasingly radicalised by the opposition of the Ulster unionists to Home Rule from 1912 onwards and wrote nationalist articles under the pseudonym ‘Seán Bhean Bhocht’.
He rarely receives a mention when it comes to the writers and poets of 1916 (“Of unmatched skill to lead by pathways rife/With danger and dark doubt, where slander’s knife/Gleamed ever bare to wound, yet over all/He pressed triumphant on-lo, thus to fall” – ‘Parnell’, by Roger Casement) yet his reports from the Putumayo and from the Congo show a writer of great talent.
His descriptions of the horrendous brutality inflicted on innocent and perfectly peaceful native inhabitants was enough to force a change of policy with regard to the treatment of workers and slaves on the rubber plantations. Casement wrote in 1911 that “..the robbery of Ireland since the Union has been so colossal, carried out on such a scale, that if the true account current between the two countries were ever submitted to any impartial tribunal, England would be clapped in jail..”.
For his part in trying to stop that robbery he was convicted of treason by the British and sentenced to death after a three-day ‘trial’ (held at the Old Bailey in London between the 26th and the 29th of June 1916, where he was prosecuted by ‘Sir’ Edward Carson, the Orange Order bigot).
His speech from the dock is not as appreciated as it should be – “With all respect I assert this Court is to me, an Irishman, not a jury of my peers to try me in this vital issue for it is patent to every man of conscience that I have a right, an indefeasible right, if tried at all, under this Statute of high treason, to be tried in Ireland, before an Irish Court and by an Irish jury. This Court, this jury, the public opinion of this country, England, cannot but be prejudiced in varying degree against me, most of all in time of war.
I did not land in England ; I landed in Ireland. It was to Ireland I came; to Ireland I wanted to come; and the last place I desired to land in was England. But for the Attorney General of England there is only “England”— there is no Ireland, there is only the law of England — no right of Ireland; the liberty of Ireland and of the Irish is to be judged by the power of England. Yet for me, the Irish outlaw, there is a land of Ireland, a right of Ireland, and a charter for all Irishmen to appeal to, in the last resort, a charter that even the very statutes of England itself cannot deprive us of — nay, more, a charter that Englishmen themselves assert as the fundamental bond of law that connects the two kingdoms..” (…more here).
I say that Roger Casement
did what he had to do.
He died upon the gallows,
but that is nothing new.
Afraid they might be beaten
before the bench of Time,
they turned a trick by forgery
and blackened his good name.
A perjurer stood ready
to prove their forgery true ;
they gave it out to all the world,
and that is something new.
For Spring Rice had to whisper it,
being their Ambassador,
and then the speakers got it
and writers by the score.
Come Tom and Dick, come all the troop
that cried it far and wide,
come from the forger and his desk,
desert the perjurer’s side.
Come speak your bit in public
that some amends be made
to this most gallant gentleman
that is in quicklime laid. (From here.)
Roger Casement was sentenced to “death by rope” on the 29th June 1916 and was executed by the British on the 3rd of August that year in London, England. On the 1st March 1965 – 58 years ago on this date – his remains were re-interred in the Republican Plot of Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.
FUNDS AND FINE GAEL’S LEADER…
Michael Lowry has so far been the focus of media attention about Fine Gael fundraising.
But the party’s current leader, Enda Kenny (pictured), hosted a £1,000-a-plate dinner two days before the second mobile phone licence was awarded. And other guests say that one of the bidders for that licence was in attendance.
By Mairead Carey.
From ‘Magill’ magazine, January 2003.
“Obviously, the people going to such an event aren’t going for the meal…” Michael Keating added, “..there would have been no promises made, but at least they feel afterwards that they have a nodding acquaintance with the guy.”
A few days before he was to announce the winners of the ‘National Conference Centre’ bid, Enda Kenny controversially aborted the competition and entered negotiations with the ‘Royal Dublin Society’ (RDS) to build the centre – even though the RDS had been one of the competitors!
The ‘Carlton Consortium’ complained to the European Commission about his handling of the affair, and when Fianna Fáil returned to power, (State) Tourism Minister Jim McDaid set up another competition which was eventually won by ‘Treasury Holdings’.
But that version of the project also floundered and to this day the centre has not been built…
PLANNING FOR A BREAK TO RECOVER FROM THE BREAK…!
…and we’re back from our holliers, as you probably already noticed!
All 34 of us – actually, 38 of us left Dublin on the 13th February but a couple and their two children decided to stay on for another few days, during which time they’ll (probably!) drive around offering apologises and begging for forgiveness on our behalf…!
We didn’t completely wreck any of the places we visited but, as we tried to explain to the cops and the various judges we encountered (!), we were a group of Dubs free from the normal constraints of work, house, children, grandchildren and all other responsibilities and…well…eh….Sergeant/Yer Honour, we maybe occasionally lost the run of ourselves…!
Ah no. Only jokin’…
And myself and the rest of the Girl Gang will be losing the run of ourselves again later on this month ’cause we’re going back ; in between our childminding duties and the feeding times (!) we had the craic and have made arrangements to do it again, especially so considering that we won’t be getting to New York this year, mostly because of ‘Covid Passports’, which we haven’t got, but also due to the crappy exchange rate. So, yeah, readers – we’ll be taking another short break later on, but don’t fret, pet – sure we’ll give ya at least a week’s notice!
Thanks for the visit, and for reading,
Sharon and the team.
See yis all next Wednesday, 8th March, 2023.