Monthly Archives: November 2015
by Irvine Forgan
“He was a bad scribe because in reality he was ‘remaking’ the text” — Antonio Gramsci
This discussion focuses the signifying and ideological values articulated in the contrasting instances of the euphemistically named ‘peace walls’ and modes of mural expression. Although each instance is distinct from the other they contain mutually affecting variables.
With their arrival in the north of Ireland in 1969 the British army constructed sand banks along lines separating Catholic and Protestant residential areas in west Belfast and areas of Derry.  These frontiers have in the present time reconfigured as invitations for the communities’ to cooperate in building hegemonic legitimacy of the 1998 Belfast Agreement. However a code precluding the formation of a collective identity between nationalist Catholic neighbourhoods and loyalist Protestant ones is written into the peace wall discourse inasmuch as its conflictual structure invites the community on either side to contest the other through asserting its own narrative. This becomes evident in the discord between the postmodern rhetoric of diversity, inclusiveness, and liberation of personal taste attributed to the cultural discourse in the new Northern Ireland, and the prescriptive policies and programmatic strategies prescribed by the new law of the Belfast Agreement. One such programme strategy inures the discourse through the aesthetic themetization of the peace walls with state sponsored imagery. The return to popular taste strategized in the imagery produced on these walls is in fact a state sponsored mise-en scene.
On the Bombay Street side of the Cupar Way wall, many Catholic houses and businesses back directly on to the wall. Metal grids provide limited protection to these homes and businesses. The site of the Clonard Memorial and Bombay Street mural which engages with the violent events of August 1969 that occurred in the street and elsewhere in Belfast is located against the wall on this side. The mural, painted on the gable end of the rebuilt terraced estate in Bombay Street, prior to the introduction of the re-imaging programme explores the violence that occurred in the street and surrounding areas during August 1969. Angry red flames leap from burning homes; a woman holds a child to her bosom; figures are shown in silhouette. A photograph of the innocent face of a young boy Gerald McCauley is shown in an oval frame with the writing alongside—Dedicated to the memory of Fianna Gerald McCauley. Below, in the format of a film strip, reproduced photographs show burned out homes, grey building rubble and a deserted street. These images contrast sharply with the red and orange flames and provide narrativized access to the aftermath of the violence. Above the scene are the words in bold—Bombay Street Never Again.
On Belfast’s map, Bombay Street is a site of particular significance, recognized as a Read the rest of this entry
‘Hold on to your rifles’ and ‘Let no shot be fired in Ulster’: notes on two remarks attributed to Connolly
by Liam O Ruairc
A problem with Desmond Greaves’s well-known biography of James Connolly is the reliability of some of his quotes. For example Greaves ascribed to Connolly a ‘stages’ theory of revolution in which the national democratic revolution is “the first stage of revolution” and this “recalls the approach of Lenin” in Two Tactics (C.Desmond Greaves (1961), The Life and Times of James Connolly, London: Lawrence & Wishart, 425). To substantiate his claim, Greaves quotes an article from Connolly entitled ‘Economic Conscription’ published in the Workers’ Republic of 15 January 1916, where he argues that as the “propertied classes have so shamelessly sold themselves to the enemy, the economic conscription of their property will cause few qualms to whomsoever shall administer the Irish government in the first stage of freedom” (Ibid, 384). Greaves stresses this phrase -but it isn’t there; what Connolly wrote was in fact “whomsoever will administer the Irish government in the first days of freedom” (cfr. the second volume of the Connolly (mistitled) Collected Works p.127). This fact was pointed out by John Hoffman, a Connolly Association member, in 1978 but as late as 1985 Greaves was still repeating this claim (ie. page 223 of his essay in the Britain, Fascism and the Popular Front collection edited by Jim Fyrth and published by Lawrence and Wishart).
It is also worth examining another crucial Read the rest of this entry
There’s a very interesting article by Louise McGrath in Wednesday’s Dublin Inquirer about lesbians who fought in the 1916 Rising: http://dublininquirer.com/2015/11/25/remembering-the-lesbians-who-fought-in-the-easter-rising/
The article is based on information provided to McGrath by Mary McAuliffe, a lecturer in women’s studies at UCD and former president of the Women’s Historical Association, along with Workers Party Dublin city councillor Eilis Ryan and Brian Merriman, the founder of the International Dublin Gay Theatre festival.
The article identifies not only a few well-known cases of gay women and men from that era – Eva Gore-Booth and Esther Roper (although they weren’t participants in the Rising) and Roger Casement – but also talks about several lesbian couples who were: Kathleen Lynn and Madeleine ffrench-Mullen (both of whom took part in the Rising and held rank in the Irish Citizen Army) and Elizabeth Farrell and Julia Grennan (Farrell being the person who accompanied Pearse to surrender to the Brits). It also notes the bisexuality of Read the rest of this entry
James Heartfield and Kevin Rooney have produced an interesting, valuable and timely short book on the 1916 Easter Rising and how it has been commemorated since 1966. The authors are clearly sympathetic to the republican insurgents of 1916. They provide a fine account of the Easter Rising and its context, emphasizing that it was a historical event in global terms. They locate the 1916 Rising in the context of inter-imperialist rivalries and labour unrest,and how it resonated from India to Burma, from Lenin to Ho Chi Minh. This is a welcome progressive alternative and counter-narrative to the standard official accounts of the period. But the book is especially valuable for its discussion of the issue of historical memory and its connection to the peace process. Heartfield and Rooney provide an excellent critique of the so-called ‘Decade of Centenaries’, clearly influenced by some of the most creative insights of Frank Furedi (1992) Mythical Past, Elusive Future: An Essay in the Sociology of History.
The authors first examine how the Rising has previously been commemorated, and how central taking ownership and control of anniversary commemorations was. Eamon de Valera ‘owned’ the 50th anniversary of the Rising in 1966, celebrating it as the foundation of the 26-Counties state. Liam Cosgrave tried to ban the 60th anniversary in 1976 only succeeding in losing control of it. In 1991 Charles Haughey clamped down on the 75th anniversary choking it. But for the 100th anniversary in 2016 “the Decade of Centenaries has given up on trying to control the event, and chosen instead to decentre it and dilute it, by putting it alongside other events, of supposedly equal significance” (150).
The 1916 Easter Rising is being ‘decentred’ and ‘diluted’ by being put on par with the Read the rest of this entry