Category Archives: Free State in 1920s

Republican Congress doco – in review

Nora Connolly - she was right! She should be given her due.

Nora Connolly – she was right! She should be given her due.

by Shan Van Vocht

A few nights ago I finally got around to watching the Republican Congress DVD. The revival of left-republicanism in the wake of the Provisional leaderships’ sell-out is a very welcome development.  Among other things it has sparked renewed interest in important left initiatives in the 15 years following the Treaty between the British ruling class and the southern Irish bourgeoisie.  So this document is a very worthy project.  At the same time I think it has some important weaknesses.

Let’s not beat around the bush.

What is the utterly despicable Ann Matthews doing in it?  Her life these days is devoted to attacking republican women of the early 1900s, especially Markievicz.  She says things about these women that are blatantly untrue (like we only have Markievicz’s word for it that she was second-in-command at Stephen’s Green), she suppresses evidence that doesn’t suit her vilification of Markievicz and others (for instance, she uses Free State unionist judge Willey’s 20-years-after-the-event ‘memory’ of Markievicz breaking down at her court-martial while not telling readers that the official court-martial record shows no such thing), she’s written a viciously anti-Markievicz play and her two books on republican women of the 1900-1940 period are extended diatribes aimed to destroy these women’s reputations.

West Brit audiences and readers no doubt love what she writes.  However, she should be absolutely persona non grata on the left and yet she pops up here and there – in this doco, as speaker at a left meeting in Sligo with Declan Bree in the chair for chrissakes, launching her book on the ICA in the GPO with Eamonn McCann for chrissakes helping her.  And in the Republican Congress DVD she claims the Cumann na mBan women who initially were favourable to Republican Congress backed off as they were “religious conservatives”. Sure, Sheila Humphreys was a right-wing Catholic!!!  She also claims there were no political brains in Cumann na mBan, as if they were all airheads like herself.  Chrissakes, why would the makers of this documentary invite her to spout this ludicrous crap in their documentary?!!!!  (Matthews’ stuff on republican women is so off-the-wall, I started to think a while ago that she might have mental health issues.)

My two other gripes was that they gave a platform to fake-left Read the rest of this entry

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Who drove the Rising?

imagesI’m well-disposed towards the 1916 Societies, so this short piece should be taken as a disagreement in a comradely spirit.

A recent article on their site says, “The driving force behind the Rising was the IRB; it was in effect a Fenian Rising.”  (See here.)

I think this is not only wrong historically but it has some important political implications for today too.

The IRB was not the driving force behind the Rising and nor could it be.  Connolly, Mallin, Markievicz and the Irish Citizen Army made up the driving force.  From the time the First World War broke out, Connolly determined on a Rising and began preparations.  The IRB position was rather more confused.  The left of the IRB – Clarke, Pearse, Mac Diarmada etc – also wanted a rising, but the situation in the IRB was far more complicated as the organisation contained far more equivocal figures, like Bulmer Hobson, and wavered continually.

The classic example is that the IRB capitulated to Redmond’s demand for a bunch of his sycophants – 25 of them I think! – to be added to the leading body of the Irish Volunteers.  If you are the driving force for an imminent rebellion you don’t agree to have a large number of opponents of such a rebellion being added to the leadership of what is ostensibly to be the main force of the rebellion.

And, utterly predictably, when war came, the Redmondite element of the Irish Volunteer leadership supported British imperialism and they and Redmond took the vast majority of the members of the Volunteers out of the movement and into the British Army and onto the imperialist killing fields in France.  The IRB leaders who were responsible for the capitulation of Redmond had not only made a serious political error, they had in effect sabotaged the Volunteers.

While the IRB floundered about, with its left elements wanting an insurrection but not really understanding how to proceed, Connolly was pursuing a consistent Read the rest of this entry

Cork Volunteers’ Pipe Band: supplementary editions (#5)

Supplementary Edition (No. 5) of the Cork Volunteer’s Pipe Band Centenary Year Project 1914-2014.

by Jim Lane

Capture the band

Funeral of James Crossan the last IRA Vol to be killed in Operation Harvest.The cortege was led by Jim Lane , piper of the Cork Volunteer’s Pipe Band. At the graveside Eoin O'Connell, Fiianna Eireann bugler from Cork sounded the Last Post and Reville. The oration at the graveside was delivered by T.ÓhUiginn.

In the number four edition of the Cork Volunteer’s Pipe Band on December 2014, Jim Lane promised viewers that” if anything further comes to hand of importance, he will request the relevant websites to make available space put it up online”. With this Supplementary Edition,  published in October 2015, we fulfill that comment.

This is a series of five articles on the centenary year 1914-2014 of the Cork Volunteer’s Pipe Band that was founded by Tomas MacCurtain . With the help of some old band members, we tried our best to bring together what information and photos we could fined.

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Dublin Cole-Colley commemoration, Aug 29

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In review: Maurice Coakley on how Britain under-developed Ireland

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Maurice Coakley, Ireland in the World Order: a history of uneven development, London, Pluto Press, 2012

I read this book a couple of years ago and meant to review it then, but other things got in the way.  To make up for the delay, I’ve done something bigger – basically a mix of summary and review:

Coakley begins with a brief survey of bourgeois and anti-capitalist attempts to explain uneven development, from Weber and Durkheim to Gramsci, Jack goody, Immanuel Wallerstein and Robert Brenner. Coakley is concerend, in particular, with the different patterns of growth exhibited in Britain (especially England but also Scotland and Wales) and does so by exploring the unequal relations between them from the medieval era onwards.

Imposition of feudalism

He notes that the Anglo-Norman conquest resulted in the division of Ireland into Gaelic and Anglo-Norman regions. While the boundaries and interactions were fluid, they possessed different social structures. In the Anglo-Norman areas, a manorial/feudal economy was developed, with the local nobility owing allegiance to the English monarch. The peasantry which worked the land for the new elite included a layer of free peasants (largely transplanted from England) and a larger layer of unfree peasants (serfs) of Irish stock. This latter group was less free than the unfree peasants (villeins) in England itself. For instance, they had no legal rights at all.

The crisis of feudalism throughout the 1300s in Europe, including Ireland, explains the decline of Anglo-Norman power and the English language. It also reduced free tenants to labourers. This produced a significant return to England by peasants wishing to avoid greater subjection. The lords in Ireland were then forced to make concessions to Irish peasants. This combined with the impact of the plague largely finished off serfdom by about 1500.

The economy, moreover, had shifted in the 1300s back largely to pasture. This meant a different form of social organisation to tillage, where peasants laboured for a lord. Pasture involved a more kindred pattern of social organisation. The Anglo-Normans were also becoming Gaelicised. But Anglo-Norman-Gaelic Ireland was a hybrid social formation because as well as the kindred social organisation the major feudal lords were more powerful than their counterparts in England who were checked by the king from above and a large lower aristocratic layer and yeomanry below. Even in the Pale there was no yeomanry.

In the distinctly Gaelic and predominantly pastoral areas of Ireland, land and cattle denoted power. Access to land was dependent on kinship, with collective inheritance. While cattle were individually owned they were also dispersed; for instance, through being loaned to poor members of a clan. There was no significant surplus product which might create and sustain a Gaelic ruling class and state comprised of bodies of armed men; rather, “the principle of reciprocity permeated every aspect of Gaelic society”, although this did not mean equality. Read the rest of this entry

Gay marriage referendum

I’ve written a feature-length article about this for another blog.  Because it’s written for a mainly non-Irish audience, it explains things that wouldn’t need explaining to Irish readers, but hopefully is still well worth a read by this blog’s readership.

You can find it at: https://rdln.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/irish-society-and-politics-and-the-referendum-on-gay-marriage/

 

 

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

Sources on Irish Citizen Army

join_armyThis is reblogged from Micheal at Laochra Uladh (see blogroll), an excellent blog dealing mainly with the Border Campaign (Operation Harvest) of 1956-62; I’ve left his American-English spellings as in the original, except that I spelt RoH out in full, so used the English-English for Honour.  I’ve slightly changed the order of items from the original and also stuck in an illustration.  I’ve also written a little bit about the ICA, albeit within chapters about wider events, which you can find here and here.  Lastly, Mick mentions that Brian Hanley’s article in Saothar on the ICA after 1916 is hard to find – I have a pdf of the Brian H article, which I can send to anyone if you drop me a line:

There’s no doubt that the Irish Citizen Army is one of the landmark organizations of modern Irish history. In honor of Labor Day here in America and the 100th anniversary of the Lockout, I’ve compiled some of the best links and online resources on them:

Very good introductory history: http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/cc1913/ica.html

James Connolly’s explanation of why they formed: http://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1915/10/forca.htm

Worth including is this instructional pamphlet Connolly addressed to the Citizens’ Army on revolutionary warfare: http://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1915/rw/revwar.htm

Recruiting poster and uniforms: http://www.theeasterrising.eu/160ICA/ICA.htm

Their Roll of Honour: http://comeheretome.com/2011/11/02/irish-citizen-army-ica-roll-of-honour-easter-1916/

Sean O’Casey’s Memoir: http://libcom.org/library/story-irish-citizen-army-sean-ocasey

Memoirs by volunteers:

Frank Robbins (later published as Under the Starry Plough): http://1913committee.ie/blog/?p=599

Matthew Connolly (brother of Sean, KIA): http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BMH.WS1746.pdf

James O’Shea: http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BMH.WS0733.pdf

Willie Oman: http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BMH.WS0421.pdf

Maeve Cavanagh: http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BMH.WS0258.pdf

Rosie Hackett: http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BMH.WS0546.pdf

After 1916

On their little known existence from 1916-1930s. Brian Hanley wrote an excellent article on the subject (for Saothar in 2003), but it’s hard to find. Luckily SIPTU has a summary here: http://www.siptu.ie/aboutsiptu/history/thecitizensarmy/

AOH Hibernian Rifles

An article on their unlikely and today uncredited allies in the AOH’s Hibernian Rifles: http://www.theirishstory.com/2013/03/31/a-short-history-of-the-hibernian-rifles-1912-1916/