Monthly Archives: May 2016
The pieces below have all had over 1,000 views. The most-viewed, on women and the national struggle from the Rising to the Treaty and civil war, has had almost 8,000 views; the one on the assault on Markievicz has had 1,025; the rest are part way in-between:
Women’s rights and the national struggle, 1916-1922
The burning of the British embassy – 40 years on
Politics and the rise of historical revisionism
Nationalisms and anti-nationalisms in Irish historiography
Saor Eire – Marxist and republican
The Easter Rising and the ‘blood sacrifice’
A history of the Provisional Republican Movement – part one of three
The working class and the national struggle, 1916-1921
The global-historical significance of the 1916 Rising
The New IRA and socialist-republicanism in the twenty-first century
Republicanism and the national independence struggle, 1916-21
Chapter 4: The Home Rule Crisis
The Rossville Street (Derry) Bloody Sunday murals
In review: Joost Augusteijn on Patrick Pearse
The lesbian fighters of 1916
The assault on Markievicz – as fact-free as it is malicious
Sign the petition to abolish the Special Criminal Court:
The Special Criminal Court was set up by Fianna Fail in 1972 as part of their attempt to suppress the national liberation struggle that had re-erupted in the late 1960s. The ‘Soldiers of Destiny’ were worried that there was mass support in the south for the struggle in the north, especially following the burning down of the British embassy in Dublin in early 1972 after the British Army massacre of peaceful protests in Derry on Bloody Sunday.
The southern state sought to regain the initiative and repression of republicans through things like juryless courts, secret evidence and so on was the order of the day.
One of the most notorious of the Special Criminal cases was the Sallins train robbery case in 1976. A mail train was held up and robbed and the state, worried about the rise of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, arrested five members – Osgur Breatnach, Michael Plunkett, John Fitzpatrick, Nicky Kelly and Brian McNally. ‘Confessions’ were beaten out of four of them. Evidence of the beatings was simply dismissed by the judges and the men were convicted on the basis of confessions alone, although two jumped bail and fled the country. It took four years before several convictions were overturned, but the last one took until 1984.
The excellent piece below appears in this month’s issue of the journal Irish Political Review. It deals with the extraordinary and malicious assault on the reputation of Countess Markievicz, an assault which has been ratcheted up in recent years by Ann Matthews. Matthews seems to have decided to devote her twilight years to a personal vendetta against the revolutionary countess – indeed, the vendetta seems almost out-of-control now, in terms of what she says about Markievicz, making Matthews look somewhat obsessive and deranged. She suppresses evidence, uses ‘evidence’ which is highly questionable, cherry picks evidence to suit her already decided upon line, claims to have ‘no theory’ as if she is just some impartial fact-finder, and writes books and plays which appeal to a particular type of audience (middle class, anti-republican) who lap up her fanciful ‘history’. In reality, hatchet job as history.
I had been thinking of writing something about Matthews and her methods for a while, when I received the piece below from a friend of mine in Belfast. What is most notable about the critiques of people like Matthews is how strongly evidence-based they are. They show Matthews and her fellow revisionists to be short on facts and long on prejudice and not particularly scrupulous – and certainly not rigorous – when it comes to dealing with evidence.
Sometimes, however, you do just have to laugh. For instance when Matthews refers to Markievicz as “eccentric” and “with a strong sense of her own self-importance”, I think this is what the psychologists call ‘transference’!
In a future short piece I’ll deal with Charles Townsend on Markievicz’s imaginary breakdown and with Fearghal McGarry’s complete misrepresentation of evidence from Barton & Foy’s book on 1916. (Barton & Foy demolish the nonsense that Markievicz broke down at her court-martial and call the claim ‘scurrilous’, whereas McGarry pretends that they say the account of her breakdown was expunged from the official court-martial proceedings!) If I can summon the energy, I’ll also comment on Matthews shoddily-written Renegades, point to the shoddiness of the writing, suppression of evidence and some of her sleights-of-hand and double standards. It’s hard to believe that her ‘work’ is taken seriously, so it’s hard for me to summon up the energy to deal with it. She should have been taken to task for all this by her PhD superviser/s and marker/s.
Perhaps someone in Ireland or Britain doing honours papers could methodically go through Matthews’ ‘work’ and check her ‘references’ as well as her omissions and double standards. It could be a model dissection of how a rather crude anti-republican propagandist goes about presenting their propaganda as merely truth-seeking historiography.
“MURDERESS” MARKIEVICZ OR MALICIOUS MISOGYNY?
by Manus Riordan
From April 20 to May 2 of last year a Show Trial took place in the Headquarters of the Communist Party of Ireland. A year later, during this past month of March, the Show Trial resumed in CPI HQ, with the defendant scheduled to be extradited to Paris for the final day’s Court sitting on April 23. On trial for “murder”, and undoubtedly scheduled for a death sentence, gender considerations nonetheless signaled commutation.
But no, the CPI has not been seeking to emulate any of the Show Trials that characterised Leninist rule in Eastern Europe. Indeed, the CPI has no responsibility at all for Madame de Markievicz on Trial. For understandable commercial reasons, the CPI shares its premises with the New Theatre. But just as I found it incongruous to pass through Connolly Books en route to finding out just how nauseating the theatrical character assassination of Connolly’s comrade-in-arms would turn out to be, I am sure CPI personnel found it even more nauseating to witness, on a daily basis, those audiences en route to lap up that Show Trial authored by one-time CPI-archivist Ann Matthews.
There is little doubt in my mind that Constance Markievicz has been the target of systematic misogyny, irrespective of whether the character assassins be male or female. Professor John A Murphy, University College Cork’s Emeritus Professor of History, had certainly been prepared to play the role of nasty little man in the Irish Times of 22 October 2004 when, under the heading of “Markievicz and the Rising”, he gave vent to the following piece of misogynistic West Brit character assassination:
“The argument in your columns about Countess Markievicz’s activities in Easter Week 1916 recalls W.E. Wylie’s interesting account of her demeanour at the courts martial. Wylie was appointed to act as prosecuting counsel. He was impressed by some of the prisoners, notably Eamon Ceannt and John MacBride, but not by Constance Markievicz. According to him, the court expected she would make a scene and throw things at the judge and counsel. ‘In fact’, said Wylie, ‘I saw the General (Blackadder, court president) getting out his revolver and putting it on the table beside him. But he needn’t have troubled, for she curled up completely. ‘I am only a woman’, she cried, ‘and you cannot shoot a woman. You must not shoot a woman.’ She never stopped moaning, the whole time she was in the courtroom.’ Though she had been ‘full of fight’ in Stephen’s Green, ‘she crumpled up in the courtroom’. ‘I think we all felt slightly disgusted. . . She had been preaching to a lot of silly boys, death and glory, die for your country, etc., and yet she was literally crawling. I won’t say any more, it revolts me still.’ Wylie’s memoir of 1916 was written in 1939 when he was 58. But is there any reason to think he was lying about Markievicz, or that his recall was defective?”
In my then capacity as SIPTU Head of Research in Liberty Hall, I submitted the following reply, which was published that 28 October:
‘In the 1916 Rebellion Handbook, first published in that year by the Weekly Irish Times, there is a self-revealing observation on the Irish Citizen Army from ‘The Steward of Christendom’ himself, Dublin Metropolitan Police Superintendant Thomas Dunne. (This is the title of the play penned in his memory by Dunne’s great-grandson, Sebastian Barry – MO’R). He complains that ‘it is a serious state of affairs to have the city endangered by a gang of roughs with rifles and bayonets, at large at that time of night with a female like the Countess Markievicz in charge’. Constance Markievicz’s reputation has indeed been bedevilled by a combination of misogyny and contempt for her association with the working class that this union set out to organise, and whom Superintendent Dunne chose to christen ‘the disorderly class’. All the more reason, then, to expect professional rigour to be applied when UCC’s Emeritus Professor of History, John A. Murphy, intervenes (October 22nd) in what he calls the ‘argument in your columns’ concerning Markievicz’s role in 1916. Surprisingly, however, he has nothing to say on the actual issue in dispute: that either Markievicz had shot Constable Lahiff at Stephen’s Green, as maintained by Kevin Myers (October 14th), or that she could not possibly have done so, being at that time at the City Hall, as evidenced by Claire McGrath Guerin (October 19th).”
“Prof Murphy has instead chosen to open up a new line of attack, by endorsing, without any qualification, the character assassination of Markievicz offered in his memoirs by the death penalty Read the rest of this entry
by Mick Healy
One of the highlights of the James Connolly Festival 2016 was the music night with Anderson and special guests Bad Sea and Ciaran Dwyer.
The concert in The New Theatre, Temple Bar, was probably the best show I’ve seen for a long time, with no set breaks as the performers cranked out tune after tune without a dull moment.
Ciaran Dwyer opened the show in without doubt his finest performance ever, singing a combination of sweet folk and country music, in this fantastic-sounding venue. The headliner act, Anderson, who played an amazing acoustic set from his album Patterns, took to the stage after Dwyer. This left it to the three piece Bad Sea to close the show with the most incredible performance from lead singer Ciara Thompson who lifted the roof with her magical voice. Great night of music.
Editor’s note: Mick is much too modest to mention it, but he was the organiser and the MC on the night – Phil.