ON THIS DATE (8TH MARCH) 81 YEARS AGO : DEATH OF AN UNYIELDING OPPONENT OF THE FREE STATE.
On March 27th, 1872, a baby girl was born in London, was moved to County Cork and reared and educated there, at Queens College : that baby was Mary MacSwiney (pictured), who grew up to be an uncompromising republican and one of the most outstanding republican personalities of the 1920’s and 1930’s.
The young Mary MacSwiney trained as a teacher and returned to London for work until a suitable post was available in Dublin. A supporter of the suffragette movement, she joined the ‘Munster Womens Franchise League’ (MWFL) in 1908 and, during the following years, campaigned for the franchise to be extended to women.
She left the ‘MWFL’ in 1914 as a result of that organisations support for Britain in the first ‘World War’.
After its formation in April 1914, Mary MacSwiney joined Cumann na mBan and was later appointed to its Executive Committee ; at the same time, she was a member of a number of other nationalist organisations, including the Gaelic League.
After the 1916 Rising, she was arrested and imprisoned, and was dismissed from her teaching post ; after her release some months later, she founded a school, ‘St Ita’s’, modelled on Padraig Pearse’s school, St Enda’s. Her sister Eithne and her brother Terence were also involved in the setting-up of the school.
In 1917, Mary MacSwiney joined Sinn Féin, following the adoption by the party of a more republican separatist policy.
Following the death of her brother Terence, who died on hunger-strike in October 1920 (at the height of the Tan War) Mary MacSwiney visited America and gave evidence before the ‘American Commission on Conditions in Ireland’ regarding the campaign of terror being waged against all sections of the nationalist population by the British forces of occupation.
Elections to the Second Dáil were held in May 1921, and Mary MacSwiney was elected a TD for Cork ; in December that year she spoke in opposition to the Treaty of Surrender which she described as “the grossest act of betrayal that Ireland ever endured” and stated that if the Treaty was passed she would use her influence as a teacher to spread rebellion against the proposed Free State.
In the Civil War that followed, Mary MacSwiney was a formidable and unyielding opponent of the Free State and made no secret of her support for the republican side. She was imprisoned for a brief period in July 1922, following the surrender of the Four Courts garrison in Dublin.
Returning to Cork after her release, she virtually ran the republican headquarters in the city, but had to leave Cork in a hurry as the Free Staters were looking for her.
She was arrested in Dublin on November 4th that year (1922) and was imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail – she immediately went on hunger-strike for release and was eventually freed on the 25th day of her fast, due to the huge international publicity her case received.
She was elected to the Executive of Cumann na mBan in 1926 and, in October that same year, was also elected as Vice-President of Sinn Féin, at that organisations Ard Fheis, which was held six months after the split with de Valera.
Along with other prominent republicans, including Brian O’Higgins, she resigned from the party in 1934 over the decision of Sinn Féin to allow members to receive IRA pensions from the new Fianna Fail administration (there can be no doubt of how she would react to the salaries, offices, perks and holiday-homes that the PSF grouping are in receipt of, and not only from the Free State..)
Mary MacSwiney was one of the last surviving loyal members of the Second Dáil who transferred their authority to the Army Council of the IRA in December 1938, an authority which still resides in the Republican Movement.
She supported the IRA bombing campaign in England but poor health prevented her from playing her usual active part in the Movement.
Mary MacSwiney died on the 8th of March, 1942, at seventy years of age – 81 years ago, on this date – thirty-four years of which she devoted to socialism and republicanism.
The MacSwiney name will live on as part of the Irish struggle.
8TH MARCH 2023 – INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY.
‘Lá Idirnáisiúnta na mBan (International Women’s Day) – the struggle continues ;
We salute all those women of Cumann na mBan who fought and died to end British rule in Ireland, and the establishment of a Socialist Republic based on the Proclamation of 1916.
Many women of Cumann na mBan were involved in the planning and execution of the 1916 Rising, providing support through intelligence gathering, fundraising, and providing safe houses for members of the rebellion. Women also served as couriers, carrying messages and weapons between rebel strongholds and providing medical aid to wounded fighters.
Sinn Féin Poblachtach remembers those women of Cumann na mBan as equal participants in the 1916 Rising, and their contributions are celebrated and commemorated alongside those of their male counterparts.
Cumann na mBan’s contribution to the revolutionary struggle was not confined to the Easter Rising 1916. The organisation played a very significant part in the War of Independence, rejected the Treaty of Surrender and played a heavy price for their activities in the Civil War. They have continued to the present day to be to the fore in the struggle for Irish freedom and in particular we remember those women who paid the supreme price during the war in the Occupied Six Counties in recent years.
We will continue to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, and to raise awareness of the ongoing struggle for gender equality and for complete Irish freedom.’
(Borrowed [and slightly edited!] from colleagues of ours in Armagh, Ireland.)
‘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 –
“In his name-call on the young men and women of this historic countryside to prove themselves worthy of this man who stood forth all the days of his life ; he was fearless, undaunted, uncompromising.
The day is at hand, and I promise you that it is nearer than any one of you here might think, when you will be called on to serve the Cause which Domhnall Mac Suibhne served so faithfully and so long. His voice is now silent and his pen is still, but from this grave his spirit will call to you to play your part as he played his in the struggle for the freedom of our country. When that day comes let ye not be found wanting.
Domhnall Mac Suibhne is dead, and perhaps it is only now when he is gone that those who lived around him will realise that something is gone which cannot be replaced.
Go dtugaidh Dia Solus na bFlaitheas dá anam uasal calma. Ar dhéis Dé go raibh sé.”
(END of ‘Tribute To Dead Republican’ ; NEXT – ‘The Yalta Agreements’, from the same source.)
ON THIS DATE (8TH MARCH) 57 YEARS AGO : PILLAR OF SOCIETY LOOSES HIS STANDING…
In 1808, Trinity College in Dublin donated £100 towards the building of Nelsons Pillar, and Arthur Guinness and Sons gave £25. The total cost of the Pillar was £6856, 8 shillings and 3 pence (including the railings around it..) and it (and the railings!) were ‘part-removed’ on Tuesday, 8th March, 1966 – 57 years ago on this date – without ‘permission’ from Trinity College, Guinness, Leinster House or Westminster!
The structure was erected in the then Sackville Street (named after the then British ‘Lord’ Lieutenant of Ireland, Lionel Cranfield Sackville aka the ‘Duke of Dorset’) in 1808, in honour of British Admiral ‘Lord’ Nelson’s “victories at sea”.
The column was about 120 feet high and Nelson’s statue (designed by Cork sculptor Thomas Kirk) stood 13 feet tall on top of it. At about 1.30am on the morning of Tuesday, 8th March 1966, an explosion blew the top part of the column asunder and what was left of Nelson landed on the ground, as did hundreds of tons of (other!) rubble.
The IRA was suspected of involvement, but quickly distanced itself from the job, declaring that they were more interested in removing actual British imperialism from Ireland rather than just the symbols of it – the ‘Saor Éire’ group let it be known that its activists were responsible, that the codename for the operation was ‘Operation Humpty Dumpty’ and that, a day or two beforehand, they had left a device on site which failed to detonate and was retrieved, repaired and left back on Monday night, the 7th March 1966.
The front page of ‘The Irish Times’ newspaper on the 8th March 1966 read : ‘The top of Nelson Pillar, in O’Connell street, Dublin, was blown off by a tremendous explosion at 1.32 o’clock this morning and the Nelson statue and tons of rubble poured down into the roadway. By a miracle, nobody was injured, though there were a number of people in the area at the time…’, which could be said to be probably the first time that Nelson’s arrival in an area didn’t hurt anyone…
The two-headed, one-armed and one-eyed Nelson ‘…understood the need to annihilate the enemy…he led the fleet into harm’s way, picking out the enemy flagship as his target, leaving it a crippled hulk and the enemy fleet a leaderless mob…after that his followers could complete the task…no one ever argued that he was a paragon of matchless virtue (but) for 200 years his reputation has been besmirched with accusations of infidelity…yes, Nelson had his faults (his vanity, love of applause and vulnerability to flattery)…’ (from here) was given a headache by Irish republican Seán Ó Brádaigh, and others, in the 1950’s, when an attempt was made to melt the head of the statue and de Valera is said to have asked ‘The Irish Press’ newspaper to run with a front-page headline declaring ‘British Admiral Leaves Dublin By Air’ !
‘Grey brick upon brick
On somber pedestals
O’Connell, Grattan, Moore
And the brewery tugs and the swans
On the balustraded stream
And the bare bones of a fanlight
Over a hungry door
And the air soft on the cheek
And porter running from the taps
With a head of yellow cream
And Nelson on his pillar
Watching his world collapse’ (from here.)
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON…
From ‘Magill’ Annual, 2002.
Secondly, with his faded good looks, financial problems, and uncertainty about the future, the man from Little Rock personifies the current post-Tiger Zeitgeist like no other could.
As Beckett once said – ‘When you’re up to your neck in shit, all you can do is sing’, and what better blustering tenor to hear emanating from the Park in a few years than that of Wild Bill? Harangued by unresolved court cases, heavily in debt, at the mercy of continually prying journalists and still smiling, his essential indomitable insouciance could be a lesson to us all in these times of coming hardship.
True, Bill’s side of the deal would bring him about the same level of real power as wielded by the average president of an American high school class, but a man of his wiles could easily use the country to establish a world-wide power base opposed to George Bush’s America, and few would be opposed to renaming the Presidential abode something a bit more fiesty, such as ‘Kandahar’.
In terms of our next President, ‘Wigmore’ suggests William Jefferson Clinton ; if he has taught us anything, it is that anything is possible if you can manage to bend the rules and just keep smiling.
(END of ‘William Jefferson Clinton’ ; NEXT – ‘Rough Justice’, from the same source.)
ON THIS DATE (8TH MARCH) 50 YEARS AGO : IRA ATTACK OLD BAILEY, LONDON.
On Thursday, 8th March 1973 – 50 years ago on this date – at about 3pm, a 300lb IRA car bomb exploded outside the ‘Central Criminal Court of England and Wales’ (the ‘Old Bailey’, situated on a site once occupied by the old Newgate Prison). One man, Fred Milton, 60, who worked as a caretaker in a near-by office block, Hillgate House, had suffered a heart attack before the explosion, and the poor man died about two hours after same – and at least 215 people were injured.
Two other car bombs, which were apparently timed to explode at the same time, were defused, and it later emerged that New Scotland Yard, a British Army recruiting office in Westminster and a British government building in Whitehall were all targeted by that IRA ASU, for the same reason as the Old Bailey was – the common link was that all were representative of the British state, reminiscent of earlier such actions in England by Irish republicans – for instance, in the late 1930’s, installations such as electricity, water and transport infrastructure were targeted in London, Manchester and Birmingham, not to mention the Fenian dynamite campaign in Victorian Britain.
However ; back to the 1973 attack – the following is taken from ‘Iris Magazine’, August 1984 : ‘In March 1973, seven men and three women, including Marion and Dolours Price, had been charged in London with the Old Bailey and Whitehall bombings. After being sentenced to life imprisonment, the Price sisters embarked on a hunger-strike for repatriation. Their hunger-strike was to last 206 days, during which they were force-fed in horrific conditions.
In support of the Price sisters the women in Armagh Jail started having a token 24-hour hunger-strike every Friday. Those prisoners on remand would also use the opportunity of court appearances to make speeches from the dock about their comrades on hunger-strike.
The Price sisters were finally transferred to Armagh Jail on March 18th 1975 – their transfer had been announced much sooner and the Armagh women prisoners didn’t expect them on that day. As Teresa Holland put it – “We had been practising for weeks, with flags, uniforms, the lot, and they hadn’t come. And then suddenly there they were! So we got out the flags and the uniforms and had another parade just for them. They were lost, they couldn’t believe their eyes. Everybody felt brilliant and, for a full week, every time they went into someone’s cell, the girl in that cell would make them a big feed. It actually took them a long time to settle in, with all the fuss!”
And, unfortunately, that whole scenario could yet be repeated due to the fact that Westminster continues to claim political and military jurisdictional control over six Irish counties, and enforces that ‘claim’ regardless of the consequences involved.
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.
A number of bookmakers were also present at the Conrad fundraiser – Stewart Kenny represented Paddy Power, while the head of Ladbrokes gaming operations, Mike Smith, was also in attendance.
Ladbrokes owned the Hilton chain of hotels outside the US and was at that time searching for a site for the Dublin Hilton. “The size of the site depended on whether the group secured a casino licence for the hotel. We wanted to know the deal,” said a company source.
Enda Kenny told the Dail (sic) in January of that year that he had an open mind on whether legislation should be introduced to allow gaming in the country (sic), but there was widespread public opposition to such licences being granted and, in June 1996, the government decided not to introduce the necessary legislation.
The late Paddy Fitzpatrick, head of the Fitzpatrick chain of hotels, was also at the fundraiser. It is not known how many fundraisers were held by either the party or individual ministers during the two-and-a-half years in which Fine Gael was in power…
Thanks for the visit, and for reading,
Sharon and the team.