Category Archives: Fianna
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
Dublin South Central has a rich wealth of history connected to the 1916 Rising. From the local IRB circle to Na Fianna, from the local Irish Volunteers to the Irish Citizen Army and Cumann na mBan, many local residents took part in the Rising and local areas, including the Phoenix Park and the South Inner City ,saw important battles during Easter Week 1916. Join us as we organise community celebrations of the most important event in modern Irish history.
The Dublin South Central 1916 Centenary Committee has been formed by local residents to organise community celebrations of the 1916 Rising in Dublin South Central. Its launch will take place at a public talk on “1916 and the Irish Revolution” by Dr Ruan O’Donnell on Saturday July 4, at 4pm, in the Bosco Centre Drimnagh. Bigi Linn; All Welcome.
I’ve just put up a link to a site dedicated to Fianna Eireann. You can read about individual members of the Fianna and the Citizen Army’s scouts as well. At present the site covers 1909-1923. It’s: http://fiannaeireannhistory.wordpress.com/
I was delighted to hear from the person behind it and apologise profusely for not getting back to him sooner, as the email address I’ve probably given for this blog is one used by another blog I’m involved in, Redline, and the email there only gets cleared intermittently.
éirígí Dublin North East will mark the 90th anniversary of the execution of Volunteers Cole and Colley with a wreath-laying ceremony on Saturday, August 25th, assembling at 12.30pm at Beaumont House before the short walk to Yellow Road.
ORATION ON THE SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF MURDER OF FIANNA COLE AND COLLEY
Comrades in the Republican Army and friends, fellow Republicans, we meet here today to do honour to two young lads who gave their lives for Ireland two years ago.
Standing by their graves today, where the green grass and flowers hold up their heads, I thought of that sad day two short years ago when I stood by the side of their two poor mutilated bodies lying in the mortuary of the Mater Hospital, and when we followed them – just a few of us – followed their bodies up to this graveyard and heard the sods falling, one by one, like drops of lead, on the bright hopes, courageous hearts, and noble characters of these two young lads.
Somehow it seemed so tragic as we stood there and the same prayer rose to the lips of all, the prayer to worthily carry on – carry on what these boys had died to accomplish.
At this anniversary we who honour them, who love them, who knew them, renew that prayer to God in our hearts; and we will be given the courage to dare if we must dare, to stand by if we must stand by, and the courage to undergo death and torture even as Cole and Colley underwent it.
May we be worthy to be followers of these noble boys. May their deaths rally this generation as Emmet’s death rallied the generations that followed him.
Today we look back over the two blackest years Irish history has ever known. Men of our own Republican Army deserted us, were bought, tricked and cajoled by England, took up the British fight, and carried on the treacherous part at the bidding of England. It is the noble deaths of lads like these that have cleansed Ireland from this sin and given us hope for the future. The green grass and flowers that spring from their graves shows us how hope springs even from death, tells us that all duty, love and courage, spring from the graves of dead heroes.
Today, just two years after their deaths, we see a grand rally of young lads in Ireland who are carrying on their work in the Fianna. The courage of many of them has been tried in jail; many went out in the flying columns taking their lives in their hands.
So today let us carry from these graves a message of hope to Ireland. We will carry no bitterness for their murderers. We of the Fianna still stand by the old chivalrous ideals of the Gael. We will say, as our two martyrs would say, in the words of Christ, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
The men who murdered these boys did not know what they did it for. We pity them, we despise them – we abhor the qualities that made them do such a deed, but we must not on an occasion like this think of them bitterly.
The honouring of the two martyrs that lie here has today marked another turning point, and we of the Fianna stand pledged to go out and work and devote our lives to the full ratification of the Irish Republic. That pledge we renew here today, and we in the names of the dead heroes and martyrs, pray God to give us strength to act as they did, and if needs be to fight as they did, and to die as they died, in defence of the Republic of Ireland.
Sinn Fein, August 31, 1924
FIANNA EIREANN AND THE 1921 TREATY
Simplicity and directness of vision and love of the true and noble are part of the attributes of youth. Our Headquarters’ staff instinctively took the straight, hard road, and when the “treaty” was signed, reaffirmed their allegiance to the Republic. Since then the Fianna Eireann have carried on the fight, and many a noble boy stood true in spite of the soul-stifling misery of prison and the horror of torture. Some, alas, went wrong and threw in their lot with those who sold their honour to the British Government, and became part of the English king’s garrison in Ireland. These renegades did England’s dirty work, spying on their comrades who stood true and often sending them to a cruel death. But this must not discourage us; it must remind us that human nature is weak and foolish, and that there are traitors everywhere, and that even among the Twelve Disciples there was one traitor.
But our faith tells us that human nature is redeemed by the blood of those who die and through our martyrs our cause remains holy and clean. We remember with reverence the lads who were kidnapped or taken in battle in every part of Ireland to be tortured and murdered because they refused to betray their comrades and their country. It is well that we bear in mind the message sent out by Liam Mellows, just a short time before he faced a “Free State” firing squad, and take to heart those words written by one of the wisest and greatest of the sons of Ireland, whose death has crowned our motherland with glory. He says, “The Fianna ideal can save the future. The reason for so many young soldiers going wrong is that they never had a proper grip of the fundamentals. They were absorbed into the movement and fight, not educated into it. Hence no real convictions.”
So I would call on the young officers of the Fianna to rally to LIam Mellows’ last command and start on a great campaign of education. Teach young Ireland what the English conquest is; that it is more than a military and political one, it has a deeper and much more dangerous significance. It stands for the conquest of the will and the soul of the Irish people.
An English constitution is forced on us to impose the English social, economic, and educational systems on us. Therefore to reconquer Ireland for the Irish we must have complete separation from England. The whole island must always remain one country with all the powers of a sovereign nation.
Teach the boys that it rests with them to see that the rising generation has both the power and the will to build up an Irish civilisation, and to draw up an Irish constitution, with an Irish system of education which will train our youth to be free, spiritually, mentally and bodily. Let the Fianna learn that Ireland to be really free must be, as Pearse says, “Not free merely, but Gaelic as well.” Gaelic in soul, spirit, thought, and language. This only is freedom, and it can never be attained while Ireland is an integral part of the British Empire. To obtain this freedom they must understand the horrors of the British civilisation and the beauties of the old Irish civilisation which is the foundation on which we must develop our newly-awakened self-conscious Republic, and the Fianna must lead the way.
The above article originally appeared under the title “15th Anniversary of Fianna Eireann”, Sinn Fein, June 21, 1924.
Written for Fianna Eireann in her capacity as chief scout
“A good citizen is a man or a woman every action of whose life is based on the dictates of a strong Civic Conscience.”
A baby when born into the world is like any other animal, in so much as it is quite helpless and has no sense. As time passes, it begins to notice and get in touch with other people; first with its mother who cares for it, then with its little brothers and sisters, its father and other members of the household. As it gets to understand and be understood, it is forced to live in its family as part of the family, suffering when the family suffers, mourning when one of the family dies, going hungry when the breadwinner is idle, and enjoying family life happily when all goes well with the family.
Family Life The Beginning of Citizenship
Some children learn quickly to live the common family life, and to help and do their share in making the family life happy and comfortable. Other children are selfish, wanting more than their share of everything pleasant and shirking their share of work. Or perhaps, they are given to telling tales on their brothers and sisters; maybe they are untruthful or dishonest or prepared to push all their brothers and sisters aside and into the gutter as long as they get on.
This family life is the beginning of citizenship. It is citizenship on a tiny scale, and the good citizen is the man or woman who looks upon himself or herself as part of a big family that he loves and wants to do his duty by. His big family is the whole nation.
Joining the Fianna
We begin life then as citizens of our family, but the first real step in citizenship that we take is when we join the Fianna. Read the rest of this entry
HOW WE WON THE FIANNA TRIALS
“The most dangerous form of animal is a Fianna boy”. This quaint remark caught my ear as I entered the ruined courthouse in Wexford. Surprised, I turned and asked, “Why?” The answer came in a chorus, “Didn’t you hear they brought them handcuffed together in pairs from Waterford?” Scarcely credible, but true.
The GHQ of Na Fianna Eireann had decided to fight the two cases that the British Free State police had brought against the “boys of Wexford” and I had come down with Mr Alec Lynn, whom we had chosen to be our champion.
The trial was to be held in a small court in the half-ruined courthouse, and we passed through the roofless hall where the British had formerly sat to jail patriots into the meaner hall where those who were today doing their dirty work were to sit. Read the rest of this entry