The evidence versus yet more Ann Matthews’ smears of Constance Markievicz
Here’s yet another place where what Matthews dishes up is at best highly questionable and, in fact to put it bluntly, most likely untrue.
For instance, Matthews’ Renegades asserts that Markievicz did very little in Liberty Hall during the lockout other than flounce around making a show of herself.
Well, here is some testimony from Louie Bennett, a leading figure in the Irish labour movement for many years. Bennett was a suffragist wh0 got involved with the radical end of the labour movement at the time of the 1913 lockout and subsequently played a leading role in the militant Irish Women Workers Union. Here she is talking about how she secretly started going to Liberty Hall during the lockout:
“At that time I belonged to the respectable middle class and I did not dare admit to my home circle that I had run with the crowd to hear Jim Larkin, and crept like a culprit into Liberty Hall to see Madame Markievicz in a big overall, with sleeves rolled up, presiding over a cauldron of stew, surrounded by a crowd of gaunt women and children carrying bowls and cans.” (Bennett talked to R.M. Fox about her life and this provided the basis for his 1958 book on her, Louie Bennett: her life and times, p42).
This suggests Markievicz worked hard in the soup kitchen and was not some dilettante who only appeared when photos were being taken, as suggested by O’Casey and picked up by Matthews.
Moreover, Matthews is highly selective about providing context. If she wants to use someone but knows she will then be attacking them she provides some (albeit distorted) context, as in her clumsy use of Helena Molony against Markievicz. However, if she is simply using something nasty someone has said about Markievicz she avoids context, as in the O’Casey case. What Matthews omits is, of course, rather important. O’Casey attempted to have Markievicz expelled from the Citizen Army because of her relationship with the Irish Volunteers – a relationship which actually prefigured the coming together of the two for the Rising! When the vote went against O’Casey, he departed the Citizen Army and the whole Irish revolutionary scene, absenting himself from the major struggles to come over the next decade. He went off in a huff and subsequently attacked Markievicz, and also Larkin and Connolly. Having lost the vote, his attack on Markievicz’s role in the soup kitchen is hardly surprising.
By not introducing the framework in which O’Casey made this particular attack and by ignoring counter-evidence entirely, Matthews reveals, yet again, that she is on a political mission that has little to do with actual historical evidence.
In addition to the context of O’Casey’s comments and the evidence from Louie Bennett, we have some more compelling evidence that counters O’Casey and Matthews. Larkin and Connolly were hard-headed proletarians who had no time for fools and dilettantes. Are we really supposed to believe that either of them would have entertained Markievicz for a minute if she was a publicity-seeking, fatuous upper class dilettante, fluttering around the fringes of the transport workers’ union and Citizen Army, awaiting opportunities to have her picture taken in the soup kitchen? That they would have entertained her for a minute on the seven-person Army Council (ie central leadership) of the workers’ militia?
And while we’re on O’Casey, here’s another case of Matthews’ misuse of evidence – well, more accurately, ignoring of evidence. In Dissidents, she claims that Markievicz was a coward for taking off to Scotland during the civil war. But Sean O’Casey, much as he disliked Markievicz, wrote, “One thing she had in abundance—physical courage; with that she was clothed as with a garment” (Sean O’Casey, Mirror in My House: The Autobiographies, London: Macmillan, 1956, 316).
Matthews increasingly appears not so much as a seeker of historical truth as an especially crude example of a professional anti-republican propagandist. One with a particular axe to grind against republican women, who she robs of agency, intelligence, integrity and courage. Are they everything that Ms Matthews is not?
Posted on September 22, 2016, in 1913 lockout, Civil War period, Constance Markievicz, Counter-revolution/civil war period, Free State in 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, General revolutionary history, Historiography and historical texts, Irish Citizen Army, James Connolly, Jim Larkin, Prisoners - past, Republicanism post-1900, Reviews - books, The road to the Easter Rising, War for Independence period, Women, Women in republican history, Women prisoners. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.