Category Archives: Civil War period
by Charlie McGuire
The Irish Civil War of 1922–23 is one of the most neglected events in Irish history. In contrast to the Tan War of 1919–21, a celebrated event about which a great deal has been written, very little attention has been paid to a conflict that not only exacted a heavier toll in terms of casualties, but was also more significant in shaping subsequent political divisions within the southern state itself.
Ken Loach’s acclaimed film The Wind That Shakes the Barley is perhaps the first film to look in any detail at the nature of the divides that existed within the Irish independence movement, and the manner in which these worsened after the signing of the December 1921 Treaty.
Leaving aside the predictable hostility from the armchair imperialists of the English Tory press, most serious critical comment concerning the film has been positive and has recognised the importance of opening up a debate on this important period in modern Irish history. It is as a contribution in this direction that this article on the experience of communists in the Irish civil war is intended.
The Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) was formed in Read the rest of this entry
The defeat of the hunger strike in 1981 was a severe setback for the Republican Movement. While initially, in the wake of the heroic sacrifice of the prisoners, certain political gains were made especially on the electoral front, the last few years have not seen any significant political advances by the revolutionary forces in Ireland.
The greater emphasis on electoral work and the decision to reject abstentionism in elections to the Dail has not led to the gains clearly expected. The work around ‘economic and social’ issues has not yet produced any substantial results. The revolutionary forces in Ireland have been unable to halt the growing collaboration between British imperialism and the puppet governments in the Twenty Six Counties. Finally, on the military level, the stalemate which has existed for some time between the IRA and the British and loyalist security forces remains.
Inevitably in such a period every revolutionary movement is forced to reassess and rethink its strategy if the impasse is to be broken. The Republican Movement is no exception. It is in this context that we should welcome Questions of History written by Irish Republican Prisoners of War and produced by the Education Department of Sinn Fein ‘for the purpose of promoting political discussion’. Part I has so far been made available and covers the period from Wolfe Tone to the Republican Congress (1934).
The book is a valuable historical document which uses the history of the Republican struggle as a vehicle for raising crucial Read the rest of this entry
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 Read the rest of this entry
Anne Haverty’s updated new edition of her bio of Constance Markievicz is well worth a read (and a buy). Among other things, Haverty disproves the notion that Markievicz shot an unarmed cop at the beginning of the takeover of Stephen’s Green and then ran back inside the Green exulting in the killing. Personally, I happen to think members of the Dublin Metropoitan Police were legitimate targets, but the attack on Markievicz is that she shot him at point blank range when he was unarmed and had no chance to surrender. Various professional anti-republicans (the historical revisionist school, for instance and folks like Ann Matthews, whom I simply can’t take seriously as any sort of historian) have peddled this nonsense, using highly questionable ‘evidence’.
Haverty runs through, for instance, the use of a Geraldene Fitzgerald’s account which revisionists typically classify as being from her diary. Haverty points out that it is actually two typed pages that read like a deposition for a prosecution, one the state did not pursue (which itself says something about the fanciful nature of the claim). Haverty shows how Fitzgerald’s testimony is faulty (different time to when the policeman was actually shot; distance from the shooting and yet Fitzgerald claimed to hear words spoken in the Green!!!) and concludes of Fitzgerald’s ‘evidence’: “Only the 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
The great revolutionary writer, activist and theorist C.L.R. James wrote the article below in 1941 (April 14) on the 25th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. It appeared in the American left-wing paper Labor Action – James was living in the US and was a prominent figure in a Trotskyist group called the Workers Party at the time. His party name was Johnson. The piece is taken from the Marxist Internet Archive, having been transcribed and marked up by Einde O’Callaghan. Not surprisingly, it contains a few small errors – such as numbers – and James is wrong to say “Easter week was the herald of the Irish revolution and the first blow struck against imperialism during the war at a time when the Irish revolutionary movement in Europe seemed sunk in apathy and the futile squabblings of exiles in cheap cafes.” Hardly any Irish were political exiles living in Europe before the Easter Rising, let alone squabbling in cheap cafes.
by C.L.R. James
Easter Sunday morning, 1916. Three o’clock. James Connolly, Irish revolutionary leader, was talking to his daughter and. some of her friends, all asking why the revolt so carefully prepared had been countermanded.
Connolly knew that the arms from Germany had been intercepted, he knew that the arrangements had broken down, but he knew that the British government was going to strike. He could not let the revolt be stamped out without resistance. It seemed to him, and rightly, that the resulting demonstration would be too great. He would fight, come what may. There was a chance that if they held out long enough the whole country might rise. But, whether or not that happened, the blow had to be struck. It was in this spirit, long range revolutionary calculation, that Connolly sent the message to his followers calling on them to begin.
They prepared a declaration of the Irish Republic, signed by Thomas Clarke, Sean MacDiarmada, P.H. Pearse, James Connolly, Thomas MacDonagh, Eamonn Ceannt, Joseph Plunkett. About noon the next day a body of Irish volunteers marched down O’Connell Street, apparently on parade. In reality they were marching on the Post Office and they seized it. At that same moment, small detachments seized other key points in the city. A little over a thousand men, workers, and a few intellectuals at their head, had challenged the whole British Empire.
They held the center of the city for over five days. By Friday, 60,000 British soldiers were fighting 1,000 Irishmen while Dublin blazed in flames. The revolutionaries hoped that the country would follow them – but nothing happened, nothing at any rate that could then be seen and measured. On Saturday, President Pearse ordered the surrender. To even sympathetic observers it seemed that the Irish had merely once more shown themselves a brave but irrational and unpredictable people. Except Lenin, who wrote fiercely in their defense, not only as revolutionaries but in defense of the circumstances of their revolt.
A History of Bloody Repression
To understand this noble, but apparently futile heroism one must have some idea, however rough, of Ireland’s past at British hands.
It is customary to speak of Turks in the Balkans and Tsarism in Poland as classical examples of imperialist barbarism. Nothing in six centuries of European history has ever equalled the British strangulation of Ireland. To get some adequate idea of this, one has to study the Read the rest of this entry
Below is the text of the oration delivered by Maire Drumm on Saturday, December 13, at the annual éirígi Liam Mellows commemoration. The event took place at Mellows’ grave in County Wexford. Wreaths were laid at the event by the Independent Workers Union and éirígi.
Mellows is one of the giants of Irish left-republicanism. As a teenager he was a member and leader of the first republican military organisation of the twentieth century, the Fianna Eireann movement founded by Constance Markievicz. Later he was a founder-member of the Irish Volunteers and led the 1916 Rising in Galway. Following the defeat of the Rising and imprisonment, he played a vital role in rebuilding the republican movement, in particular the newly-republican Sinn Fein and the Irish Republican Army. He was part of the Sinn Fein landslide in Ireland in the 1918 British general elections. The republicans won 73 of the 105 Irish seats at Westminster on an absententionist and independence basis, duly establishing a parliament of their own in Dublin (Dail Eireann) and declaring independence.
When the British government refused to recognise the will of the Irish people and moved to use violence to suppress their will, Mellows was to the forefront of the resistance. A war for independence took place from 1919-1921 when the more bourgeoisified elements of Dail Eireann supported a treaty with Britain which gave the British state continuing control of six north-eastern counties of Ireland while also creating a 26-county neocolonial state in the south and west (the Free State). Mellows opposed the Treaty and was part of the central leadership of the republican side in the 1922-23 civil war until his execution on December 13 1922 by Free State forces while a prisoner in Mountjoy Jail in Dublin. – Phil
Maire Drumm Oration:
It is an honour to be invited to speak at this commemoration to pay tribute to Liam Mellows and his three young comrades – Joe McKelvey, Richard Barrett and Rory O’Connor – on the ninety second anniversary of their execution by Free State forces. We also remember all those died in the struggle for national freedom.
Liam Mellows and his comrades were executed on December 8th 1922 without any trial and without any charge being laid against them.
In the eyes of the counter-revolutionary Free State government, the only crime was the four men’s adherence to the political objectives which had been succinctly set out in the 1916 Proclamation and expanded upon in the Democratic Programme of the Republic of 1919.
Those documents laid out a political agenda based upon national self-determination, social and economic justice and democracy; of cherishing all the children of the nation equally, of claiming the wealth of Ireland for the people of Ireland; of securing the greatest measures of political, social and economic freedom for the mass of the population.
Those revolutionary objectives were later ditched by an anti-Republican political elite in favour of a Treaty that saw the creation of two partitionist states within the British empire whereby control of the means of production and wealth generation would still remain in the hands of a small, but very wealthy, minority.
The men we honour today recognised that fact. They completely opposed the Treaty with its two state political solution to reinforce an all-Ireland economic status quo.
Those who led resistance against the Treaty and partition were well aware that the forms of government proposed would in no way be Read the rest of this entry