Category Archives: Civil War period

David Reed’s 1988 review of Republican POWs’ Questions of History

 

downloadby David Reed

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The book is a valuable historical document which uses the history of the Republican struggle as a vehicle for raising crucial Read the rest of this entry

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The evidence versus yet more Ann Matthews’ smears of Constance Markievicz

imagesI’ve stuck up several pieces so far which indicate how Ann Matthews is pursuing a vendetta against Constance Markievicz, one which plays fast and loose with facts.

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

Get this book!

constance-markieviczAnne 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

The lesbian fighters of 1916

Kathleen Lynn, doctor, revolutionary soldier and socialist-republican

Kathleen Lynn: doctor, revolutionary soldier and socialist-republican

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

C.L.R. James on importance of James Connolly and Easter Week

C.L. R. James, 1901-1989

C.L. R. James, 1901-1989

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.[1] 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

Dublin Cole-Colley commemoration, Aug 29

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Maire Drumm oration at Liam Mellows commemoration

10426138_739143896162146_7338625163957999468_nBelow 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.

Liam Mellows

Liam Mellows

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

3rd annual Frank Conroy Commemoration

Stewart Reddin (l), Frank Conroy (r)

Stewart Reddin (l), Frank Conroy (r)

by Mick Healy

The 3rd Annual Frank Conroy Commemoration was a huge success with a large crowd, including councillors Joanne Pender and Mark Lynch, attending the event at the Republican memorial in Kildare town, on Sunday 9 November.

Stewart Reddin (Stoneybater and Smithfield Peoples History Project) introduced Kildare historian and author James Durney.  Durney spoke about the search that located Conroy’s birthplace in Kilcullen. Conroy died in 1936 while fighting with the International Brigade defending the Spanish Republic.

He was born on 25 February 1914, in Kilcullen, Co. Kildare.  His parents were Michael Conroy (born in Co. Laois) and Catherine Farrell (born in Co. Dublin).  They were married in Dublin South in 1908.  Michael Conroy was a baker by trade and moved his family to Co. Kildare, probably for employment reasons, as there was a large bakery, O’Connell’s, operating in Kilcullen.

Durney said, “Frank Conroy, a former IRA volunteer and a member of the Communist Party, left for Spain on the Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead ferry on 13 December 1936 with about twenty-five other Irish volunteers of the International Brigade, including Republican Frank Ryan.  Within days six of them would be dead including Conroy.”

Spanish civil war historian Harry Owens was the main speaker at the commemoration.  He noted “that socialist Fr O’Flanagan (a relation of Ming Flanagan, MEP) who read the prayer that opened that first independent Irish Parliament, also stood here in Kildare in 1935, one year before the Spanish civil war, when he inaugurated this monument to seven workers shot Read the rest of this entry

Interview with republican veteran George Harrison

g-harrisonTwo months before George Harrison died, he gave a lengthy interview to the Rustbelt Radical blog.  Rustbelt has a lot of really good stuff on it, and I thoroughly recommend the site.  The person behind it is an American Mid-West marxist.  Please do go and listen to the interview – here’s how Rustbelt Radical describes George Harrison:

George was an immensely humble and decent man, belying all the media images of an IRA gun runner. Immediately at ease as we had cake and coffee served to us, the 89 year-old gave us recollections of a long life well lived in a room full of manifestations of those memories. Pictures of hunger strikers, of Bernadette McAliskey and her children hung on the wall, posters and papers from the movement were on the tables. His nurse and friend Prissy was there, along with her daughter, and it is Prissy’s voice you will hear at the very end of the interviews describing the beautiful relationship the two of them had and his impact on her.

In this lengthy interview George talks about Read the rest of this entry

Revolutionary Women walking tour

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