GPO (DUBLIN) PICKET IN SUPPORT OF REPUBLICAN POW GABRIEL MACKLE.

This statement was issued almost one year ago by the POW Department of Republican Sinn Féin – ‘POW assaulted in Maghaberry : on Tuesday, April 12, 2016, Republican Sinn Féin learned that republican prisoner Gabriel Mackle was assaulted and dragged off Roe House, Maghaberry jail, Co Antrim, by the riot team, because he refused to turn off his music. The screw hit the alarm and the riot squad arrived and subsequently Gabriel was handcuffed, taken off the landing and the landing was locked down. We have no further details on Gabriel’s whereabouts. This is yet another incident in a long line of attacks against republican prisoners and specifically Gabriel Mackle who is singled out time and time again because he refuses to be criminalised.
Recently the jail administration refused Gabriel the right to engage with his religious beliefs and celebrate his son’s Confirmation. Later that same week he was mysteriously turned down for legal aid to pursue the case on a judicial review, which is beyond bizarre as it rarely occurs.
Clearly the petty vindictive attitude remains a part of the screw psyche, where the denial of political status and the general freedom to conduct their own affairs continues. Aggression will be met with resistance and thus the conflict continues, and the wishes of the POWs for a conflict free environment denied…’
(from here).

This same man is being victimised again, but by a different prison source : ‘Disturbing news came out to Sinn Féin Poblachtach today of dissent and conflict within Maghaberry prison. An attempt was made to remove a Cabhair POW from Roe house. Gabriel Mackle had only returned from a few days release to celebrate a family occasion when he was approached by some representatives of the IRPWA POWs…’ (more here) and this – ‘Statement by the President of Republican Sinn Féin Des Dalton –
Republican Sinn Féin salutes Gabriel Mackle on his courageous defence of his distinct identity and autonomy as an Irish republican POW within the Maghaberry prison. Irish republican POWs have historically had to run the gauntlet of British and 26-County state attempts to criminalise them and deny them their identity, shamefully on this occasion this latest injustice comes at the hands of those purporting to be fellow Irish republicans…’
(from here).

ON SATURDAY, 8TH APRIL 2017, at 11.30am, a picket will be held at the GPO in Dublin in support of Irish republican POW Gabriel Mackle. Please show your support.

 

GALWAY IS WHERE I WANT TO BE*…

..This City is song enough for me
To sit in old Eyre Square, holding hands with you, love, there –
There’s nowhere else on earth I’d rather be*
(*ehh…!)

Serene. A place where you can take stock of yourself, catch your breath, and enjoy having nothing to do and all day to do it. Peaceful, restful and calm. The five of us spent a week-and-a-bit in Ballyconneely, in Galway, and feel the better for it. The scenery was of a picture-postcard quality, a walk through the woods, crossing little boreens and strolling through fields to get to the shops, and meandering back to base by the footpath-less small road, until it slowly veered off course, making us jump a wee stream and carry-on across a field or two in order to reach our bungalow. Bliss!

The locals are lovely people and we had the craic with them, and we were treated as long lost cousins by the shopkeepers and innkeepers etc that we had the pleasure to mix with, the weather held up for us, we had no kids or grandkids with us to ‘entertain’ (!) and we weren’t expected to meet anyone at any location at any particular time. Time was our own, in other words, and was worth twice as much for being so! But the goo was on all five of us for a bit of sweaty grit, and noise, and hot air carrying some quare smells to your nostrils and having to dodge (sometimes) grumpy people and drivers as you’re out and about and the sheer choice of what to see and where to see it and…never mind. Only annoying myself here.

If you need a relaxing break, then Ballyconneely is made for it. But if you want an experience of a different type…!

 

EASTER MONDAY 2017 (17TH APRIL) : RSF DUBLIN COMMEMORATION.

On Easter Monday this year (17th April 2017), RSF in Dublin will hold its annual Easter Commemoration : those attending are asked to assemble at the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square, from where, at 1.45pm, the parade will leave for the GPO, arriving at that venue at 2pm.Our pic shows the RSF Easter Commemoration from last year (2016).

 

REPUBLICAN MEMORIAL DEFACED…

Before being defaced…

..and after the act.

‘In Memory Of All Those Who Fought For Irish Freedom’ – the words etched into a marble plaque which is affixed to a memorial plinth on Meagher Quay, in Waterford, opposite the Granville Hotel ; that hotel, and the Quay it’s located on, are connected to Thomas Francis Meagher, who fought against the British presence in Ireland. A political dimwit considered it appropriate, for a reason best known to him/herself, to tape a poster of Martin McGuinness to the plinth, apparently in the mistaken belief that the latter, too, had ‘fought for Irish freedom’.

But that’s not the case, as any Irish republican will tell you – Martin McGuinness was active, militarily, to obtain that which he later achieved, politically – ‘civil rights’ for nationalists, from Westminster, as opposed to that which Meagher and other republicans were, and are, fighting for – a complete British military and political withdrawal from Ireland, not simply ‘to be treated better by the British’. It would be equally as politically absurd, insulting, inappropriate and wrong to tape a ‘tribute’ poster of, for example, Daniel O’Connell, to a memorial for Bobby Sands, and I hope a reader can bring this post to the attention of the perpetrator before s/he ruins any more republican memorials.

 

PROSE AND CONS.

By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS :

Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.

First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O’Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.

YOUNG LADY FROM WOOSTER. (By D O’H, from an Indian Guru.)

There was a young lady from Wooster,
who dreamt a rooster seduced her,
she woke with a scream
but ’twas only a dream –
A bump in the mattress had goosed her.

(Next – ‘Dumbo the Elephant’, by Cian Sharkhin.)

 

ON THIS DATE (5TH APRIL) 79 YEARS AGO : SKILLED €1000-A-DAY CHAIR IS BORN…

Trade unionism and politics have a lot in common, including the fact that, if operated for the greater good, both can be beneficial to society and to the individual. Take, for instance, sports-mad Bill Attley (pictured, left), who was born in Dublin on this date – 5th April – in 1938 : he studied at the National College of Industrial Relations (formerly known as the ‘Catholic Workers College’ and the ‘College of Industrial Relations’, now known as the ‘National College of Ireland’) and was an active member of the ‘Workers’ Union of Ireland’, where he was elected as branch secretary at just 30 years of age.
Nine years later he became the deputy general secretary of that union and five years after that he was elected as the general secretary. In that same year (1982) he was appointed as a ‘UEFA Referee Observer’, a post he held for 28 years – indeed, in his second year in that position, he was elected as the ‘Chief Referee Assessor’ of the FAI. Not bad going, considering he got his first major ‘outing’ as an assistant ref in 1975, in a semi final, and then in a European cup final progressing, within a year, to the position of ref in an FAI cup final.

At 52 years of age, Bill assisted in merging the WUI with the ITGWU and a new trade union organisation, SIPTU, was formed and, on a personal note, I’ll say again that it was a bad move for the members of both of the pre-merged unions – the new entity lost its ‘bottle’ and became more ‘middle class’ than ‘working class’, and I know of many SIPTU members who, like me, are disappointed that, unlike the ‘old’ ITGWU, the SIPTU model constantly gives a very good impression of a union which is only really in your corner if you’re an air traffic controller or some such. Anyway : the then new trade union needed, among other such suits, a ‘joint general president’ and our Bill filled that position for the first four years of its existence (1990-1994) following which he officered as general secretary until he retired in 1998, at 60 years of age. Also, throughout his trade union ‘career’ he also affiliated himself with the State Labour Party, and it was to the chagrin of both of those groups that his name became associated with the ‘SIPTU Slush Fund Scandal’ (which wasn’t his first foray of that type…)

‘The fund, which spent more than €3 million over a decade of operation, has been heavily criticised following an audit that uncovered a catalogue of waste of taxpayers’ money and serious breaches of corporate governance…it has emerged that over €3m of state funds were paid into a bank account known as the SIPTU national health and local authority levy fund…the account was not one officially sanctioned by the union but under the control of two SIPTU officials…among those due to attend the hearing is CEO of the HSE, Cathal Magee, the secretary general of the Department of Health, Michael Scanlan and former general secretary of SIPTU, Bill Attley, who was head of the SKILL steering group…’ (from here) and this : ‘..also on the tab were laptops for union members (€30,000), a DVD (€30,526!), personal mobile phone costs and numerous taxi rides, including an amazing round-trip from Dublin to Tullamore via Louth (€544)! On the larger side there were “consultancy services” which were not put out to tender to the value of €526,444. This seems to have been for “Partnership training for SIPTU shop stewards and general operatives”, whatever that might mean. To the lucky member of the Skills steering group who was hired to provide the service it meant a tidy €73,000…(and some of the money) was used to top up someone’s pension. Neither the amount nor the individual involved have been disclosed…’ (from here).

The name ‘Attley’ apparently ‘..portrays partnership, the coming together of like minds and ideals (and) although it is flexible and patient, it is unnoticed and operates from the shadows…’ ; indeed – actions such as those outlined above cast a big dark spot and leave those not prepared ‘to operate from the shadows’ in the shade.

 

RICOCHETS OF HISTORY…

At the end of a year in which *IRA decommissioning has been met with widespread euphoria, Phil Mac Giolla Bháin takes a stubborn look at the facts and concludes that the celebration party may be a little premature. From the ‘Magill Annual 2002’ (*PIRA).

The transformation process that the Adams/McGuinness leadership has embarked upon since the hunger strikes of 1981, up until the recent supervised destruction of (P)IRA weaponry, has been the latest episode in the unresolved party/army debate – it is unresolved for republicans because it has been set by outside events (‘1169’ comment – actually, it was then, and remains, “unresolved for republicans” because it was an agenda promoted, internally, by nationalists [as opposed to republicans] who had unfortunately obtained leadership positions in the Movement).

The tidy ideological arguments of the Dublin-based leadership of the IRA under Cathal Goulding were not adhered to by Gusty Spence and the B-Specials ; the pogrom of northern nationalists made the unfashionable militarists come out of retirement. At the time, even the government of the Republic (sic – the author was referring to the 26-county Free State administration) – or at least a section of it – saw the need for guns. Specifically, guns in the hands of a threatened Irish citizenry. The objective of getting 500 Hungarian 9mm pistols and the appropriate amount of ammo into the North arose for the same reason that the British government parachuted ‘shorts’ (handguns) into occupied France in ‘World War II’.

The British even made a simple one-shot .45mm ‘saturday-night-special’ handgun for the purpose, complete with simple instructions in French, and it was hoped that patriotic French ‘terrorists’ would find it and use it to eliminate a German soldier or, perhaps, even better, a member of the Vichy administration. Vichy France was not a normal or stable society (‘1169’ comment – but what society under military and political occupation could expect to be “normal or stable”, despite even when certain members of that society decide to cooperate with the occupiers…?) – hence the guns in the hands of the citizenry. It would be bizarre to parachute handy ‘murder kits’ to civilians today. Context, historical context, is everything…(MORE LATER).

 

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!

BÁS DON BÉARLA.

‘Thonging’ is the strips of plastic that hold Long Kesh purses and bags together – holes are punched through the leather around the edges and the thonging is interlaced through them. In early 1974 the thonging was used to connect the cages of Long Kesh so as to provide supply lines from cage to cage. Loaves of bread were transported around Long Kesh by this method – it was a fantastic piece of resourcefulness, as demonstrated by republican POW’s.

The signing of ‘The Sunningdale Agreement’ of 1973 and the subsequent UWC Strike had far-reaching effects on the people of the North of Ireland and on the prisoners of Long Kesh. At that time I was on remand in Cage 10, and we were denied everything – no sports of any description ; we had a table-tennis table but couldn’t get bats or ping-pong balls. The Kesh was in a constant state of flux. We had no parcels, heating or visits and the food the screws sent up was nothing more than slops, so we threw it over the wire of the cage, usually at the Principal Officer’s bunk (a wooden hut that sat outside the cage). The idea was to try and hit the screws with the ‘food’ as they darted from place to place.

The only proper food we had was bread and margarine – we had no cigarettes, letters, electricity or heating, so we burned anything non-essential to heat water to make tea and when the tea-leaves were brewed to death we dried them and then smoked them. Not advisable, especially if the tea is Nambarrie’s… (MORE LATER).

 

(T)HERE WE GO AGAIN…

..but this time it’s ‘work’, not pleasure! We’re not going to be able to post our usual contribution here next Wednesday, 12th April 2017, even though we will be here, in Dublin (and not in Galway [or further afield]!). We’ll be assisting the Cabhair organisation to run a 650-ticket raffle on Sunday 9th April (work on which began on Tuesday 4th) and, as usual, we’ll be attending the ‘autopsy’ on Monday evening (10th) into how it went. The gig itself is held in a hotel on the Dublin/Kildare border and the Monday evening end of it takes place in Dublin city centre, but the effort behind the scenes is what makes or breaks it, and it’s almost a full-time job from the Tuesday before the gig until, usually, the Tuesday after it, to ensure that all goes well. But it’s well worth it, as it brings in a decent few quid, brings us into contact with new people and helps us to keep in touch with existing colleagues. We’ll be back here on Wednesday, 19th April 2017 with, among other bits and pieces, a few paragraphs about an Irish republican radio operator who was battered and imprisoned by the Free State administration, acting under instruction from a former Irish republican gunman…

Thanks for reading, Sharon.


 


 


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VANDALISED BY A POLITICALLY IGNORANT NATIONALIST…

A reader in the South-East of Ireland has contacted us to ask if we could highlight a recent incident of vandalism concerning an Irish republican monument which she, respectfully, walks past twice each day. She told us of how angry she is to realise that someone could think so little of a monument erected to those that fought for the limited freedom we have today to the point that they could besmirch that memory in the manner they did, and described the damage done as having been perhaps carried out more from the perpetrator being politically ignorant than being intentionally destructive but, never the less, she considers the deed to have been one of vandalism. And we wholeheartedly agree.

We will publish a ‘before’ and ‘after’ pic here on Wednesday, 5th April, and you can make your own mind up…

Thanks for the visit – see you on the 5th. Sharon.


 


 


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ON THIS DATE (22ND MARCH) 46 YEARS AGO : ‘FÜHRER FAULKNER’ INSTALLED AS ‘PM’ OF AN OCCUPIED AREA.

“The British Ambassador called to see me at 11am this morning. He told me in strict confidence that he had received a message from the British representative in Belfast, Mr. Ronnie Burroughs , who indicated that he had been informed by Mr. Brian Faulkner that the latter is confident of securing the nomination to be the next Prime Minister of Northern Ireland (sic). Mr. Faulkner expects this to be approved about noon on Tuesday and that he will go to the Governor-General about 3.00pm….Mr. Burroughs said that Mr. Faulkner had assured him categorically that he would be prepared to implement the Downing Street Declaration and that there would be no going back on the policies relating to the B Specials, the RUC and reform. He also indicated that he would not have anyone in his Cabinet who would not support his policies…in the course of the discussion which followed the Ambassador and I touched on the doubts held by the minority in the North on the sincerity of Mr. Faulkner in relation to reforms…Mr.Faulkner’s earlier right-wing tendencies did not inspire confidence…” (from this Free State document, dated 23rd March 1971, and marked ‘Secret’.)

Brian Faulkner was born in Helen’s Bay, in County Down, and was elected to Stormont as a Unionist MP for East Down in the 1949 election. He became ‘Prime Minister of Northern Ireland’ (sic) on the 22nd March 1971 – 46 years ago on this date – and chaired the first ever inter-party meeting held at Stormont. However, nationalists were alienated by internment and Faulkner was ordered to hand over complete security control to London in 1972. He became Chief Executive of the new power-sharing executive in 1974, but resigned as party leader when the UUP rejected the proposed ‘all-Ireland council’ settlement by a majority of eighty votes. The executive came to an end as a result of a strike by the Ulster Workers Council (UWC), and Faulkner retired from active politics in 1976. He died on the 3rd March 1977 at the age of 56 following a riding accident whilst hunting with the County Down Staghounds near Saintfield, County Down. He had been riding at full gallop along a narrow country road when his horse slipped – he was thrown off and killed instantly.

It was during his ‘Premiership’ that internment without trial was introduced, under the ‘1922 Special Powers Act’, on Monday, 9th August 1971, because, according to Faulkner – “Every means has been tried to make terrorists amenable to the law. But the terrorist campaign continues at an unacceptable level. And I have had to conclude that the ordinary law cannot deal quickly or comprehensively enough with such viciousness…”. The British forces that enforced that ‘edict’ had a list of 450 people to be rounded-up, but managed to grab only 342 of them, all from the nationalist community, only two of whom were republican activists. No loyalists were ‘arrested’. Over the next four days, 24 people were killed in rioting and gun battles across the Six Counties and about 7,000 people had to flee from their homes.

Mr. Faulkner was said to be ‘distressed’ when it was brought to his attention that he had been referenced in a song which lauded a prison break which took place on the 17th November 1971, when he would have been only beginning to build his political career in Stormont – nine IRA prisoners escaped from Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast (which, between it and Long Kesh, housed more than 700 IRA prisoners at the time) with the use of rope-ladders! The nine were Thomas Kane, Seamus Storey, Bernard Elliman, Danny Mullan, Thomas Fox, Tom Maguire, Peter Rogers, Christy Keenan and Terrence ‘Cleaky’ Clarke and all of them escaped in two cars which were waiting for them on the near-by Antrim Road :

OVER THE WALL.

In Crumlin Road Jail all the prisoners one day
took out a football and started to play,
and while all the warders were watching the ball
nine of the prisoners jumped over the wall!

Over the wall, over the wall,
who would believe they jumped over the wall?
over the wall, over the wall,
It’s hard to believe they jumped over the wall!

Now the warders looked on with the greatest surprise
and the sight that they saw brought tears to their eyes,
for one of the teams was not there at all
they all got transferred and jumped over the wall!

Now the governor came down with his face in a twist
and said “Line up those lads while I check out me list,”
but nine of the lads didn’t answer at all
and the warder said “Please Sir, they’re over the wall.”

The ‘security forces’ were shook to the core
so they barred every window and bolted each door,
but all their precautions were no use at all
for another three prisoners jumped over the wall!

Then the news reached old Stormont, Brian Faulkner turned pale
when he heard that more men had escaped from his jail,
said he – “Now we’ll have an enquiry to call, and we’ll get Edmund Compton to whitewash the wall.”

‘Führer Faulkner’ began his ‘premiership’ of an occupied area on this date – 22nd March – 46 years ago.

 

PROSE AND CONS.

By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS :

Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.

First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O’Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.

IN MEMORY OF DADDY. (By D O’H.)

Oh! Breathe not his name,
let it sleep in the shade
where cold and unhonour’d
his relics are laid!

Sad, silent and dark
be the tears that we shed,
as the night dew that falls
on the grass o’er his head.

But the night dew that falls,
tho’ in silence it weeps,
shall brighten with verdure
the grave where he sleeps.

And the tears that we shed,
tho’ in secret it rolls,
shall long keep his memory
green in our souls.

(By Thomas Moore – ‘Oh breathe not his name’)

(Next – ‘Young Lady From Wooster’, by D O’H.)

 

ON THIS DATE (22ND MARCH) 38 YEARS AGO : IRA ASSASSINATE A BRITISH ‘AMBASSADOR’ IN THE NETHERLANDS.

“…we have carried out bombings and shootings in Germany over the last two years as well. Last Spring we executed Sir Richard Sykes. He was involved in intelligence gathering against our organisation but he was also a leading propagandist in the same way as Peter Jay* was in America. Sykes was also the man who conducted the investigation into our attack on the British ambassador to Dublin, Ewart Biggs. Richard Sykes was a very important person and what that attack, and others, have shown, is the IRA’s capability to operate abroad and against the enemy, not the host country, and gained our struggle attention there…” – the reply given to journalist Ed Maloney by an IRA spokesperson, on being asked why the IRA had killed ‘Sir’ Richard Sykes (pictured, left), as printed in ‘Magill’ magazine, September 1980, eighteen months after Sykes had been assassinated. (*More here, re Peter Jay and what the IRA thought of him…)

‘The Guardian’ newspaper, too, was of the opinion that the man in question (…a ‘decorated war hero..’) was more than just a run-of-the-mill ‘career politician’ – ‘Sir Richard, who would have been 59 in May, was rated as one of the “high flyers” of the British foreign service, coming up through a series of posts that took him to China, Cuba and embassies that are “listening posts” for the Soviet block. In his last posting before going to The Hague he was one of the six senior officials at the FO (Foreign Office). His division was concerned with defence, arms and security, and it can be presumed he held responsibility for day-to-day links with the intelligence services..’(from here) and the ‘Ireland In History’ blog had this to say about him : “The Ambassador was a noted security expert and at the time there was much initial speculation in the Netherlands and in Britain that other groups under suspicion at the time (including Palestinians and Iraqis) could have targeted him. He was appointed to the job in June 1977 after a two year posting as a Foreign and Commonwealth Office deputy under-secretary in London. He was an acknowledged expert on security affairs and had been a diplomat in Cuba, Peking and Washington. Ironically he was responsible for an internal report on the safety of British diplomats following the assassination by the IRA in 1976 of the British ambassador to Dublin, Sir Christopher Ewart-Biggs…’ (from here.)

The British Government, as expected, put a ‘diplomatic spin’ on the death of ‘Sir’ Sykes and those like him – “Today we honour the memory of 18 courageous men and women whose lives tragically were cut short in service to our country and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We owe them a great debt of gratitude and we pay tribute to their memory, to their important work and to their undoubted bravery…and I thank you for the contribution that you have made to the service of our country overseas..this ceremony is also a moment to take pride in the Foreign Office and all it represents..it is a great honour to lead an organisation that makes such a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the United Kingdom..etc etc..” but Richard Sykes and those like him were the ‘Cairo Gang’ equivalent of their time and were dealt with as such.

 

RICOCHETS OF HISTORY…

At the end of a year in which *IRA decommissioning has been met with widespread euphoria, Phil Mac Giolla Bháin takes a stubborn look at the facts and concludes that the celebration party may be a little premature. From the ‘Magill Annual 2002’ (*PIRA).

The border campaign, or ‘Operation Harvest’ as it was known inside the IRA at the time, was an attempt to bring Tom Barry’s West Cork war of 1920 to Fermanagh and Tyrone – it was pure republican militarism, and not very good militarism at that. Like most military failures, it failed to look at the technological improvements the enemy had acquired since the last engagement. Attempts to take ‘the Tan War’ to Tyrone failed.

To adapt Lenin’s dictum, a guerrilla army in the wake of military failure is ripe for revisionism. The debate within the republican movement from the order to dump arms in 1962 to the walk-out at the Intercontinental Hotel in Ballsbridge during the 1970 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis could be reduced to a one-word question – “Guns?” Differing republican attitudes to the guns reflected whether they believed that the party or the army should have primacy. In the early years after independence (sic), attitudes to IRA guns reflected attitudes to Free State guns.

German sociologist Max Weber concluded that, at its core, a state was “the sole claimant to the wielding of legitimate force within a given territory”. If you have two claimants, then there will be civil war. The existence of IRA guns since the civil war has signalled that the partition settlement (a ‘settlement’ under a threat from the British of “immediate and terrible war” if that treaty wasn’t accepted!) copper-fastened by borrowed English artillery was not accepted by everyone. The need for IRA guns in Belfast in 1969 meant that Michael Collins’s fears for Northern Ireland (sic) had become a deadly reality. The pogrom against the people of the Clonard came at a time when the IRA had obligingly put its weapons verifiably beyond use. They had given them to the Free Wales Army. (MORE LATER).

 

ON THIS DATE (22ND MARCH) 176 YEARS AGO – IRISH ABROAD ORGANISE TO LOOK AFTER EACH OTHER. SORT OF…

This piece is in relation to one particular aspect of travelling abroad that was more prevalent in previous times than it would be now (a risk reduced thanks to modern technology, I’d like to believe..)

Myself and my friends have landed in New York many times and, apart from being a wee bit merry
jet-lagged
(!) we were comfortable in ourselves and in our surroundings and were always met on the ground by our friends, colleagues and comrades, but we could easily picture what it would have been like for our ancestors :

‘…on arrival passengers usually made their way to the city to find boarding houses where there was a good chance the remainder of their money would be swindled. The Irish and other immigrants faced numerous abuses such as ‘illusive advertisements, crooked contractors, dishonest prospectuses’ and ‘remittent sharpers’ when they arrived in America. The ‘Irish Emigrant Society’ was founded in 1841 (on the 22nd March that year – 176 years ago on this date) by a group of New York Irish to combat issues such as these.

In December 1848 the Emigrant Society advised emigrants that as soon as their ship came into harbour she would be boarded by an agent of the Society, who would offer them sound and honest advice. But, they warned, the ship would also be boarded by a large number of ‘runners’ – conmen, who would make it their business to attract them to the boarding houses that employed them. They should be careful not to accept help from them as their ploy was to promise good quality board at low prices, but when they came to leave the house an exorbitant fee would be demanded. They would threaten not to hand over luggage unless this fee was paid and violent scenes might often ensue.

The Society warned that many persons, some of Irish birth, had set up offices in the city where they claimed to be agents for railroad and steamboat enterprises. These crooks sold tickets which purported to entitle the holder to travel to specific destinations but which were worthless. To protect emigrants from such frauds various measure were introduced in New York in 1848 including the construction of reception centres and the licensing of steam boats to take emigrants from the quarantine to the landing piers. Boarding houses were also required to display their prices in English, Dutch, German, Welsh and French. Immigrants who survived the ordeal of the crossing now had to decide where to settle in America…’ (from here.)

‘…the story of the Irish Emigrant Aid Society founded in 1841 begins in the 1830s when the volume and character of Irish immigration to the United States changed dramatically. We often think of large-scale Irish immigration to America as beginning with the Famine (sic – An Gorta Mór/the Great Hunger’) in 1845, but it was already well under way by then, with some 200,000 Irish arriving in New York in the 1830s alone. Before 1830, the majority of Irish immigrants were Protestants from Ulster. More often than not, they arrived with some capital and, equally important, marketable occupational skills. But starting in the 1830s, as the agricultural crisis that would later ‘blossom’ worsened, more and more of the Irish who arrived in the U.S. in the 1830’s and ’40s were poor, unskilled Catholics. Whereas only 28 percent of Irish immigrants arriving in 1826 were unskilled labourers, the number hit 60 percent in the 1830s and kept rising to more than 80 percent by 1850…

One of the most pervasive threats to immigrant well-being addressed (by the Irish Emigrant Society) were the legions of con men and crooks descending upon unsuspecting immigrants. Many of them worked for boarding houses that charged extortionate rates and saddled immigrants with hidden charges. Others offered fraudulent money exchanges or sold bogus tickets for steamers and trains heading west. Worst were the pimps who steered unsuspecting Irish women to brothels. Sadly, as the Society’s annual reports state, these men often used their ethnic credentials — a good Irish accent or, better still, the ability to speak Irish — to ensnare their fellow Hibernians. An eyewitness account by an Irish priest in the 1850s explains the typical scenario –

“The moment he landed, his luggage was pounced upon by two runners, one seizing the box of tools, the other confiscating the clothes. The future American citizen assured his obliging friends that he was quite capable of carrying his own luggage, but no, they should relieve him — the stranger, and guest of the Republic — of that trouble. Each was in the interest of a different boarding-house, and each insisted that the young Irishman with the red head should go with him…not being able to oblige both gentlemen, he could oblige only one; and as the tools were more valuable than the clothes, he followed in the path of the gentleman who had secured that portion of the ‘plunder’..the two gentlemen wore very pronounced green neckties, and spoke with a richness of accent that denoted special if not conscientious cultivation; and on his (the Irishman’s) arrival at the boarding-house, he was cheered with the announcement that its proprietor was from “the ould counthry,” and loved every sod of it, God bless it…” (from here.)

I’m sittin’ on the stile, Mary,
Where we sat side by side
On a bright May mornin’ long ago,
When first you were my bride;
The corn was springin’ fresh and green,
And the lark sang loud and high –
And the red was on your lip, Mary,
And the love-light in your eye.

The place is little changed, Mary,
The day is bright as then,
The lark’s loud song is in my ear,
And the corn is green again;
But I miss the soft clasp of your hand,
And your breath warm on my cheek,
And I still keep list’ning for the words
You never more will speak…

On a bright May mornin’ long ago,
When first you were my bride;
The corn was springin’ fresh and green,
And the lark sang loud and high —
And the red was on your lip, Mary,
And the love-light in your eye.

The place is little changed, Mary,
The day is bright as then,
The lark’s loud song is in my ear,
And the corn is green again;
But I miss the soft clasp of your hand,
And your breath warm on my cheek,
And I still keep list’ning for the words
You never more will speak…
(from here.)

 

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!

PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE (does my head in…)

The British soldier had a sort of sick grin on his face and was shouting all sorts of abuse at us as he started disappearing into the crowds of soldiers. Within about thirty seconds he was gone. “Where did he go?”, asked Norman. “I think he’s away to join the air force”, answered Jack the Giant. “How do you know?”, someone asked him. “Because he’s only after flying down that road”, said Jack. Even the other Brits were laughing. Just as Norman was about to point our next target, all the Brits at the front turned their backs on him and us.

We stood at that gate for about an hour while the Sentenced Prisoners’ OC and the screws met to discuss the reason for the confrontation. I have never found out what it was about but that’s not important anyway. I was told that we won, so that’ll do me. As we stood at the gate facing the Brits the word started filtering through to us in Irish that it was over and that the Brits would be going. “Right lads, we’re not waiting any longer, we’re going to attack!”, shouted the Training Officer. “Right, boys, here we go. Get into the bastards!!” We started pretending to open the gate ; the Brits couldn’t believe it. Of course they hadn’t been told what we already knew.

The Brit officers were running about screaming at their men, shouting for order in the ranks, and informing them that the issue was settled and that they wouldn’t be going into the cages. The Brit soldiers were absolutely fuming with rage. “You lucky bastards”, Norman Stanley Bowler shouted at them, “we would have slaughtered the lot of ye…”

Some of the Brits were actually crying with rage because they couldn’t get at us – I’m constantly amazed at the things that some people do for money but joining the British Army must be the lowest of the low, ranking only with being an RUC man or a prison screw. (MORE LATER).

 

GIVE (’cause I’m taking anyway…!)

We won’t be here next Wednesday, 29th March 2017, and won’t be back on the blog until the following Wednesday, 5th April – I got the chance of a shortish break in Galway and decided to go for it, as myself and the girlfriends are not going to New York this year and we’re all feeling sorry for ourselves :- ( so the usual NYC gang are gonna be drownin’ our sorrows in the City of Tribes, when really we would all much rather be with the Warriors in that other city but…not to be, not this year, anyway.

This is Galway, the bidding city the forbidding city.
City of thieves or is it scribes or is it tribes?
The jury are coming this July, the word is out they’ll rule on the bid, for Capital of Culture twenty twenty give the horse plenty.
We have a great little city here, a pity little city, a shitty little city

Back on Wednesday, 5th April 2017. See ye then!

Thanks for reading, Sharon.


 


 


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ON THIS DATE (8TH MARCH) 75 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, left), 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 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 Adams Family 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 – 75 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.

 

PROSE AND CONS.

By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS :

Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.

First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O’Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.

CANDLENIGHT. (By M O’Callaghan.)

Flickering shades
intensive gaze
harmonious and hyponotic
candle flame.

Changing colours
peaceful pondering
warm and nice
totally destructive.

(Next – ‘In Memory Of Daddy’, by D O’H.)

 

ON THIS DATE (8TH MARCH) 51 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 – 51 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 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
Declamatory bronze
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.)

 

RICOCHETS OF HISTORY…

At the end of a year in which *IRA decommissioning has been met with widespread euphoria, Phil Mac Giolla Bháin takes a stubborn look at the facts and concludes that the celebration party may be a little premature. From the ‘Magill Annual 2002’ (*PIRA).

The Dublin boat had been taken off. Our usual route was not available, so the two of us travelled through Larne to Belfast. We approached Belfast mid-morning. I had never seen a grown man terrified before. The coach driver was shaking. I was only 13, a boy. We did make it to Dublin, where we took the train to Westport.

A man came to the house to reassure my grandmother. Her question was simple – “John Joe, do they have the guns?” “Aah they do, Julia. They have plenty…” he soothed her. Guns were important in this seriously respectable middle-class Mayo household. There is a basic question in relation to stability and social justice that can be asked of any society – do ordinary decent people want to band together and arm themselves against the forces of the State? In Sweden or France they do not, but in Chechnya and Colombia they do.

A reasonably encapsulating social history of the Irish people could be written covering the last 200 years focusing solely on the native population’s desire to arm itself. Where ordinary people feel the need to acquire the sinews of war, then whatever else the society is , it isn’t normal and it won’t be stable. It is forty years since the IRA’s last campaign was ended in a ‘Dump Arms’ order. (MORE LATER).

 

ON THIS DATE (8TH MARCH) 44 YEARS AGO : IRA ATTACK OLD BAILEY, LONDON.

On Thursday, 8th March 1973 – 44 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.

 

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!

PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE (does my head in…)

We were constantly clambering over the top of the huts, running laps of the Cage and jumping over obstacles and landing on foam-rubber mattresses that you were sleeping on at night. It was a laugh. At the end of the day the Staff just decided to utilise the inherent hatred we had for British soldiers and screws alike.

At about 9.30pm we could hear a noise coming from the Internee end of the Camp. It got louder and louder still. It wasn’t long before we recognised the sound of thousands of pairs of jack-boots marching up the road towards Cage 22, to oppress us. “First Section, fall in,” shouted the Training Officer of our section. “Our job is to protect the gate.”

A voice from the back that sounded like mine shouted “Give them the gate and maybe they’ll go away”. The Training Officer had a ‘I-wish-I-could’ -look on his face and said “Fall in. No messing about in the ranks.” The first maybe 50 British soldiers who came up the road were all medics. These were closely followed by about 1,500 to 2,000 regular soldiers, and they thronged around the gate of Cage 22 and Cage 7. They could hardly move because of the confined space they were in.

The fifteen men of the First Section stood at the gate, ready for anything but prepared for nothing. We were about a foot away from the British soldiers, separated only by a culture and a bit of wire-mesh. A comrade from North Belfast, let’s call him ‘Norman Stanley Bowler’, walked up to the front of the First Section and said- “Right lads, when this gate opens us fifteen will all concentrate on getting this bastard here…”, pointing out a soldier right in front of us. We all filed past this soldier, staring at him.“This one here, Norman?” , asked Honky. “That’s the one,” answered Norman, and said, loudly, “No matter what comes or goes, we will all attack this one here…” (MORE LATER).

 

AND YOU CAN QUOTE ME ON THIS…

..because, next Wednesday, 15th March 2017, we won’t have ‘a comment’ to post here : we’re still as opinionated as ever (!) but just not gonna have the time to express it on the blog!
On Sunday, 12th March next, we’ll be in our usual spot in a fine hotel on the Dublin/Kildare border, doing our usual thing – putting the finishing touches to a 650-ticket raffle, organised by the the Dublin Executive of RSF, and then holding the actual raffle itself, preparations for which began on Tuesday last, 7th March, and will conclude on Monday evening, 13th, with an ‘autopsy’ into how the event went. But we’ll be back here on the following Wednesday, 22nd. As opinionated as ever!

Thanks for reading, Sharon.


 


 


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ON THIS DATE (1ST MARCH) 20 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 – 20 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 = 848 and 26+6 = 1. And you can count on that.

 

PROSE AND CONS.

By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS :

Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.

First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O’Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.

CALMING THE STORM. (By M O’Callaghan.)

I hear the wind
feel the storm
walked with raindrops
just this morn

solitary silence
within the confines
my mind’s alert
listens intently
fired up now
named her place

Eireann’s Isle
today she’s graced
momentarily though it seems
clouds of darkness
beseeching me

drifting slowly
listless sleep.

(Next – ‘Candlelight’, by M. O’Callaghan.)

 

ON THIS DATE (1ST MARCH) 52 YEARS AGO : IRISH PATRIOT RE-INTERRED IN GLASNEVIN CEMETERY, DUBLIN.

Pictured, left – Roger Casement’s body being re-interred (on Monday, 1st March 1965 – 52 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 – 52 years ago on this date – his remains were re-interred in the Republican Plot of Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.
 

RICOCHETS OF HISTORY.

At the end of a year in which *IRA decommissioning has been met with widespread euphoria, Phil Mac Giolla Bháin takes a stubborn look at the facts and concludes that the celebration party may be a little premature. From the ‘Magill Annual 2002’ (*PIRA).

The IRA’s guns have been a central theme of my life. I grew up listening to how they were acquired and why they had to be used. My Westmeath grandfather was apprenticed out to Westport to a man who would teach him tailoring. There he met my grandmother, a Derrig.

The Derrigs were ‘out’ in 1916 and ran the IRA in West Mayo after they came back from Frongoch. By that time my grandfather had inherited his father’s job as a guard on the train from Westport to Dublin. Passing through martial law areas freely, he took dispatches encrypted by his young wife all the way to the general headquarters of the IRA, to ‘Mick’. Back in the west, he ran an entire underground communications system and, in 1935, the ‘(State) Bureau of Military History’ asked him how many volunteers he lost : his disdainful reply to the Free State clerk was – “Lost men? We never lost a dispatch…” He also had a gun, and he never lost that either. Guns, he deemed, were the necessary tools with which to accomplish an important national task.

Mayo’s guns went up to the border the year before I was born. I sat as a boy in his widow’s front room in James Street, Westport, listening to the events of August 1971 and I knew what the man on the radio was on about, as my mother and I had just taken a coach through Belfast on Monday 9th August 1971. She had thought that Monday would be quieter… (MORE LATER).

 

ON THIS DATE (1ST MARCH) 36 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 – 36 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 an 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 the so-called ‘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.

 

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!

PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE (does my head in…)

Inside our ‘survival bags’ was our equipment ie Mars Bar, boiled sweets, tobacco and cigarette papers (whether you smoked or not!), plasters, a lace with a knot in it for garrotting people and stuff, a box of matches, an apple and a piece of charcoal. This was for either blackening your face in case of night survival or for gunshot wounds etc, and we had to carry the ‘survival kits’ at all times except for visits.

In order to ensure that we would be ready to survive at a moment’s notice, the cage staff would carry out spot checks (we were dependent on a friendly member of the staff giving us a warning about an impending spot check). This would give us a chance to steal someone’s Brandy Balls or Big Kelly’s Turkish Delight to replenish our missing, presumed eaten, ‘survival equipment’.

Anyone who had the misfortune to be missing any item out of his ‘survival kit’ could find himself cleaning toilets for a week or brushing the compound but, thankfully, we managed to survive it! The months before had seen us organised into different sections – we had section leaders and section Training Officer (T.O.), and their task was to whip us into an effective fighting force. The entire cage became an assault course – the canteen had blankets put over the windows and the light bulbs were removed. You couldn’t see anything at all. Your eyes couldn’t become used to the dark. There was absolutely no light. Tables and chairs were set up as barriers that had to be got over, under or gone round… (MORE LATER).

 

ON THIS DATE (1ST MARCH) 169 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 – 169 years ago (1848). The author was a Dr. Daniel Donovan, Skibbereen, Cork, and that article helped to focus world attention on 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..’
(from here).

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…” (more here – well worth a read).

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), 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.

Thanks for reading, Sharon.


 


 


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ON THIS DATE (22ND FEBRUARY) 28 YEARS AGO : MISPLACED ‘PRIDE’…

..and, unfortunately, the potential for more of same remains.

An unusual piece for us, given the point of view of this blog and the point of view of the man featured in the article, but the dates coincide (ie this being the 22nd February) plus it is in relation to the ‘Irish issue’ and, as stated, the potential for it to happen again remains in place, unfortunately, because Westminster continues to claim political jurisdiction over a part of Ireland, and enforces that claim militarily.

A member of the British ‘Royal Corps of Transport’, Lance Corporal Norman James Duncan (27) (pictured, above), was shot dead on the 22nd February 1989 – 28 years ago on this date – when a British Army military bus was waiting to clear a road junction. The driver, Lance Corporal Duncan, was driving from Ebrington B.A. Barracks in Derry to a near-by primary school to collect the children of his comrades when ‘…a man jumped out of a nearby car, walked over to the bus and fired 15 shots at the driver, hitting him six times in the head and abdomen…’ (from here.)

This shooting was well reported on at the time (as, indeed, was only proper) ‘Lance Corporal Norman Duncan (27) was shot dead by an IRA Unit as he drove from Ebrington Barracks in Derry to the nearby Ebrington Primary School to collect the children of British soldiers in a school bus. He was a native of Craigellanchie in Scotland…married with 3 children and a soldier with the Royal Corps of Transport holding the rank of Lance-Corporal, (he) was driving a minibus from Ebrington Barracks to Ebrington Primary School to collect children when he was shot by the IRA in Londonderry’s Bond Street. Duncan left Ebrington barracks at 1:40PM to collect the children of soldiers. As the minibus slowed at a junction, a car pulled up alongside and a gunman got out, walked over to the bus and fired at least 15 shots at the driver. Duncan was hit in the head and upper body 6 times and died almost immediately. A witness told the inquest that he saw the soldier “bouncing about inside the minibus”. Duncan was due to leave Northern Ireland in 4 weeks time. A police spokesman said that (he) was very popular with his superiors and other soldiers and added: “He was a quiet man by nature but was always willing to help his colleagues regardless of the additional hours it meant working”. After the attack, the (British) army carried out a review on its arrangements for carrying school children to and from local schools. LEST WE FORGET!’ (From here.)

‘The 170-seat parish church in the Speyside village of Craigellachie was packed for the funeral service yesterday of Lance-Corporal Norman Duncan, who was shot dead in Northern Ireland last week while driving a
minibus to collect Army children from a primary school in Londonerry. Lance-Corporal Duncan, 27, was a driver with the Royal Corps of Transport. He was buried with full military honours at Aberlour Cemetery. He was a married man with three children, and had been due to leave the Army in June…’
(from here.)

‘ROYAL CORPS OF TRANSPORT : DUNCAN – Lance-Corporal Norman J. – 22nd February 1989 – Aged 27. Shot when driving a minibus to collect children from Ebrington Primary School in Londonderry. From Banffshire, Scotland.’ (From here.)

There are other such tributes etc here and here, for example but, regardless, Westminster continues to place its military personnel in harm’s way in Ireland (and elsewhere) all in the ‘name of Empire’. Perhaps when they leave the EU, they might hold a referendum on ‘leaving’ the ‘elsewhere’ countries, too. For the sake of their own people, if nothing else.

 

PROSE AND CONS.

By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS :

Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.

First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O’Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.

THE SYSTEM. (By Harry Melia.)

Tried to break my spirit
tried to take my pride
deep down inside
the hatred I could not hide.

Got me as a kid
they’re to blame for what I did.

Pulls the strings
tried to make people dance
can one get a chance?

Builds you up
gives you a name
sets you up
makes you a shame.

(Next – ‘Calming the Storm’, by M. O’Callaghan.)

 

TRADE UNIONS AND CAPITALISM IN IRELAND….

The role of the trade union movement in Ireland in relation to the continued imperialist occupation of the North and to the foreign multi-national domination of the Irish economy – both north and south – remains an area of confusion for many people. John Doyle examines the economic policy of the ‘Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ (ICTU) and the general failure of the official Labour movement to advance the cause of the Irish working class, except in terms of extremely limited gains. From ‘Iris’ magazine, November 1982.

By mimicking the ‘left’ of the Labour Party, the Workers Party have made temporary gains in the Free State, though they have become increasingly redundant in the North. Yet, despite their greater efficiency and comprehensiveness of policy, they are no nearer James Connolly than the Labour Party.

THE WAY FORWARD.

The political and social crisis inside and outside the trade union movement requires as a base line that republicans and all genuine progressives come together in a sort of economic broad front to head the new political direction forward.

Just as socialists must play their full part in the liberation struggle, so republicans must orientate themselves seriously into urgent work on the trade unions, now. (Provisional) Sinn Féin can be the catalyst for the building of Connolly’s vision, if the effort is made*. (*‘1169’ comment : “Connolly’s vision” did not extend to implementing British rule in one part of Ireland while working, politically, within the confines of Free Statism in another part of Ireland, as anyone with a ‘republican vision’ will confirm.)

(END of ‘Trade Unions And Capitalism In Ireland’ : next – ‘Ricochets Of History’, from 2002).

 

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!

PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE (does my head in…)

James Young was shouting his catch-phrase : “Stap fightin’…” on Cage 22’s radio, storm clouds were-a-gatherin’ and I for one wasn’t a happy POW. Negotiations broke down at the wire and the screws stormed off. A few minutes later another tobacco tin flew across between Cage 7 and Cage 22 – “Everybody, meeting in the canteen.”

Gerry stood out in front of the ranks of men ar sochra (at ease) in the canteen – “We’re refusing to lock up,” he said. This was part of an ongoing tactic against the screws and their policy of trying to break our spirit and moral, and was designed by us to be more disruptive than destructive, although we were always prepared for both.

The standard day in Long Kesh started at about 6.30am when the huts were unlocked until 9.00pm, as it was at that time that the huts, with us in them, were locked up for the night. We were told to await further orders and dismissed. Our minds raced back to the fire and how most of us were experiencing a déjá vu type thing. The months before we had been receiving training in survival and, to this end, we had been supplied with survival kits, comprising of a cloth bag with a string through the top, which you pulled to tighten. (MORE LATER).

ON THIS DATE (22ND FEBRUARY) 185 YEARS AGO : FIRST INTERMENT IN GLASNEVIN CEMETERY.

‘Beneath
Lie The Remains of
MICHAEL
The Beloved Son of MICHAEL CAREY
Of Francis Street
Who Was The First Ever Interred
in This Cemetery
22nd February 1832’

(the inscription on Michael Carey’s headstone, pictured, left, in Glasnevin Cemetery).

In 1821, in Dublin, a child, Michael Carey, was born in the slums of Francis Street ; his father, Michael, worked as best he could as a scrap metal dealer/labourer, and his mother, Bridget, was a ‘stay-at-home’ wife. When he was only 11-years-young, Michael fell victim to ‘consumption’, now known as tuberculosis, and his parents moved him to a ‘safer’ part of Dublin – Phibsborough – in the hope of giving him a chance to get his strength back to fight the illness, but to no avail – the poor young lad died, and is recorded as being the first person to be buried in the then new (Glasnevin) graveyard (in an area known as Curran’s Square, in a graveyard to be later known as ‘Prospect Cemetery’) on Wednesday 22nd February 1832 – 185 years ago on this date.

Another very sad episode in relation to ‘consumption’ (‘congestion of the lungs/weak action of the heart’) and the then new graveyard is that of a William Pope : he buried his three-year-old daughter, Margaret, then, three days later, buried his one-year-old son, Patrick. William and his wife persevered as best they could but tragedy struck again five years later – another son, John, died – he was only one year ‘old’, too. Four years later, they buried another daughter, Elizabeth – she was only a week old. The father, William, died at 81 years of age, having witnessed almost his entire family die before him. His ’cause of death’ was listed as ‘old age’, but safe to say he died from a broken heart. So sad.

Thanks for reading, Sharon.


 


 


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ON THIS DATE (8TH FEBRUARY) 170 YEARS AGO : ‘THE LIBERATOR’ PLEADS – ‘ONE IN FOUR WILL DIE UNLESS YOU HELP…’

On the 8th February 1847, the then 72-year-old ‘Liberator’, Daniel O’Connell (pictured, left) delivered his last speech in the British ‘House of Commons’ : his words were in connection with the so-called ‘Irish famine’ (An Gorta Mór) and, in it, he stated – “Ireland is in your hands and in your power. If you do not save her, she cannot save herself. And I solemnly call on you to bear in mind what I am telling you now in advance, something of which I am absolutely certain, that one out of every four of her people will soon die unless you come to her aid…”
The use of the term ‘famine’, in this instance, is a misnomer if ever there was one – ‘In the early summer of 1845, on the 11th September of that year, a disease referred to as blight was noted to have attacked the crop in some areas. In that year, one third of the entire crop was destroyed. In 1846, the crop was a total failure. This report came from a Galway priest – “As to the potatoes, they are gone – clean gone. If travelling by night, you would know when a potato field was near by the smell. The fields present a space of withered black stalks…” Though 1847 was free from blight, few seed potatoes had been planted…yet the country was producing plenty of food. As the Irish politician, Charles Duffy wrote: “Ships continue to leave the country, loaded with grain and meat.” As food was scarce people would eat anything such as nettles, berries, roots, wildlife, animals, dogs and cats in order to survive…’ (from here.)

O’Connell pleaded with Westminster to save the people of Ireland who were being decimated by sickness and disease, caused by a lack of nourishment, and requested that, instead of building roads and other such infrastructure, the money available for same should be used to encourage the Irish to cultivate the soil to plant oats and barley etc, and a ‘compromise’ (of sorts) was arrived at – cheap Indian corn was brought into Ireland, for the people, sometimes on the same ships that, when unloaded, would then be loaded again with Irish-produced oats and barley – ‘cash crops’, according to the landlords, for export, not for home consumption!

The imported ‘corn’ was considered by the Irish to be a type of animal feed, the grain of which was so tough as to cause great pain and, even at that, the amount of it imported was inadequate for the number of people in need.

Daniel O’Connell died, age 72, in Genoa, Italy, 13 weeks after his 8th February speech and, as he requested, his heart was buried in Rome and the remainder of his body was buried in Glasnevin, Dublin. Father Ventura of the Theatine Order delivered the oration, during which he stated – “My body to Ireland – my heart to Rome – my soul to heaven : what bequests, what legacies, are these! What can be imagined at the same time more sublime and more pious than such a testament as this! Ireland is his country – Rome is the church – heaven is God. God, the Church and his country – or, in other words, the glory of God, the liberty of the Church, the happiness of his country are the great ends of all his actions – such the noble objects, the only objects of his charity! He loves his country and therefore he leaves to it his body; he loves still more the Church and hence he bequeaths to it his heart ; and still more he loves God, and therefore confides to Him his soul! Let us profit then, of this great lesson afforded by a man so great – a man who has done such good service to the Church, to his country, and to humanity…”
It was on this date – 8th February – 170 years ago that Daniel O’Connell delivered his last speech in the British ‘House of Commons’.

 

PROSE AND CONS.

By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS :

Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.

First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O’Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.

THE JOINT. (By Harry Melia.)

Tears in my eyes
I get the skins, a bit of hash
and make a nice skinner
to decorate my lip.

A couple of drags, the mind blows
funny thoughts, laughing to myself,
as a spider looks like a giant monster.

Giggles, a fit of laughter,
screw’s eyes looking through the peephole
think I’m mad.

I start to sing
think I’m Tom Jones, belting out
‘She’s a Lady’
the lads shouting “Belt Up!”
out the windows.

Laughter, more laughter,
the tape plays, I dance
oh so much fun
what a few puffs can do
are you alright?
give us a light.

Mind gone astray
left this prison for another day
beautiful thoughts, so much fun
light another joint
the party’s just begun.

(Next – ‘The System’, by Harry Melia.)

 

ON THIS DATE (8TH FEBRUARY) 31 YEARS AGO : ONE EPISODE IN THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH…

‘A Jury in Abbeville, Louisiana, in the United States, yesterday (ie Friday, 7th February 1986) awarded one million dollars in damages to an eleven-year old boy, who was molested by a priest, Father Gilbert Gauthe (pictured, left) now in jail for sexually abusing three dozen alter boys.

The boy’s parents, Glenn and Faye Gastal, refused ‘out of court’ settlements and sought twelve million dollars in their lawsuit against the Catholic Church because, they said, it harboured the priest even after learning that he was a child molester. The predominantly Catholic jury also awarded the boy’s parents 250,000 dollars. The abuse started when the boy was seven years of age. Father Gilbert Gauthe was sentenced to twenty years in prison last October (ie October 1985) after admitting he molested the children at Saint John Parish Church in the community of Esther. The Lafayette Diocese has settled lawsuits with thirteen families against Father Gilbert Gauthe for a reported five-and-a-half million dollars, with not one of those thirteen cases going to trial…’ (from ‘The Evening Press’ newspaper, 8th February 1986 ; thirty-one years ago on this date.)

These are the same self-righteous hypocrites that, at the drop of a Bishop’s hat, will – and have – condemned Irish men and women for challenging, and seeking to change, the political and social system in Ireland. A corrupt system which nurtures a corrupt Church.

 

TRADE UNIONS AND CAPITALISM IN IRELAND….

The role of the trade union movement in Ireland in relation to the continued imperialist occupation of the North and to the foreign multi-national domination of the Irish economy – both north and south – remains an area of confusion for many people. John Doyle examines the economic policy of the ‘Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ (ICTU) and the general failure of the official Labour movement to advance the cause of the Irish working class, except in terms of extremely limited gains. From ‘Iris’ magazine, November 1982.

By mimicking the ‘left’ of the Labour Party, the Workers Party have made temporary gains in the Free State, though they have become increasingly redundant in the North. Yet, despite their greater efficiency and comprehensiveness of policy, they are no nearer James Connolly than the Labour Party.

THE WAY FORWARD.

The alternative to the current disarray within the labour movement, and the lack of socialist perspectives, is not to be found in theoretical tracts or in abusive rhetoric, but in sound agitational work based on the enormous militant potential of grass-roots trade unionists. While capitalism in Ireland is relatively stable, its foundations are uncertain, and the false base of foreign investment will assuredly lead to a political crisis in coming years.

Equally, the terms of IMF reflotation loans will become increasingly harsh, and capitalism’s ability to maintain social consenus will falter. In this situation, industrial action alone, and isolated defensive actions by the most militant unions, will not be enough to deal with the situation.

It is only by political action paralleling industrial might that the trade unions will become a genuine force for lasting social change. Naturally, this work will not take place in isolation from the national struggle against imperialism. (‘1169…’ comment – that “work” should “not take place in isolation from the national struggle against imperialism”, but our history proves otherwise : those that have left the republican movement over the years have, on entering Leinster House and/or Stormont [Westminster next?], concentrated their political efforts on ‘social change’ issues for their own re-election purposes and, occasionally, would pay lip service to “the national struggle against imperialism”.) (MORE LATER).

 

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!

PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE (does my head in…)

We sat down on the chairs that were right up against the wire of the cage at the gate, and it begins : “You filthy swine! You rotter! You are a blackguard, my good man…you carbuncle on the backside of humanity…you filthy rotten scoundrel…you premarital accident…Glasgow Celtic FOREVER…!”, we shouted, gratuitously.

“What the fuck’s going on here?”, asked the Adjutant. “Well, we thought since the really bad abuse wasn’t working that we would try a different tack.” “Just you do what you’re told and stop messing about.” The messing about stopped and thank God my mum wasn’t there to hear Messrs Barnes, Burns, Wilson, Tolan and her own son abusing the screws.

A halt was called not long later and an assistant governor and a chief screw approached Cage 7, and stood at the wire talking to the IRA officer commanding of the sentenced prisoners. They were very agitated and animated, and threats were being made from both sides. “I’ll send the soldiers in,” said the assistant governor. “I’ll burn the Camp,” replied the OC… (MORE LATER).

ON THIS DAY NEXT WEEK (WEDNESDAY 15TH FEBRUARY 2017)…

..we won’t be posting our usual contribution, and probably won’t be in a position to post anything at all until the following Wednesday (22nd Feb) ; this coming weekend (Saturday/Sunday 11th/12th) is spoke for already with a 650-ticket raffle to be run for the Cabhair group in a venue on the Dublin/Kildare border (work on which begins on the Tuesday before the actual raffle) and the ‘autopsy’ into same which will take place on Monday evening, 13th, in Dublin, meaning that we will not have the time to post here. But we’ll be back, as stated above, on Wednesday 22nd, unless we win the ‘big bucks’ at the weekend..!

Thanks for reading, Sharon.


 


 


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