Category Archives: General revolutionary history

Political activist and radical photographer Séamus O’Riain,1937-2014

by Mick Healy

“There are those of us who try to follow the path once taken by Casement, Pearse, Connie Green and O’Hanlon. We seek to put through the charter that was bought with blood of our glorious dead in 1916, which the Free State Regime failed to do, a charter that would make an All-Ireland Workers Republic.” – Séamus O’Riain, HM Prison Brixton, September 1967.

Séamus (Ryan) O’Riain was born into poverty on September 2, 1937 to Katherine Ryan in Dublin. When Katherine married a Tom Ryan, Séamus was fostered out to a family called Corbally; unfortunately he was to end up in Drainages children’s detention centre in County Offaly.  What’s more, he remained there for about three years before he was reunited with Katherine and step-father Tom at 51 Viking Road, Arbour Hill, Dublin. (Drainages treated the children more like slaves than children, stated a commission in 2009 that inquired into child abuse at the detention centre.)

O’Riain became an accomplished photographer; his employment for a number of years was with Jerome Photography Studio at 4 Henry Street, Dublin. He created hundreds of remarkable images which are a vital history of Republican and left-wing activity. Moreover, the photographs with his Phoenix Company in London featured Brendan Behan, The Dubliners and Tom Barry, the former  Commander of the IRA’s Third West Cork Flying Column during the Irish War of Independence. Tom Barry praised him in a letter dated 24, August 1977, “A hundred note of thanks for your splendid set of photos. They are the finest I have ever seen and I have, unfortunately, had hundreds taken.”

Seamus’ association with radicalism went back to his youth when he joined the IRA along with his comrade Liam Sutcliffe, during Operation Harvest (the IRA 1950s border campaign). Like others of his generation, O’Riain Read the rest of this entry

Phil O’Donoghue and Operation Harvest

This is the story of Phil O’Donoghue who in 1954 joined the Irish Republican Army in Dublin and subsequently participated in Operation Harvest/the Border Campaign. On New Year’s Day 1957, Phil was a member of a military column during a raid against an RUC barracks in Brookeboroug, in which Seán South and Fergal O’Hanlon lost their lives. Along with 38 volunteers he was arrested at an IRA training camp in Wicklow and was imprisoned in the Curragh camp.

O’Donoghue became the National Organiser of the 32-County Sovereignty Movement that was founded on December 7, 1997.

This interview was done by Mick Healy who sent it on to me, along with the intro above.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYkW_l6VvnU&feature=emb_logo

Seán Cronin on The Untold Story of The Clan na Gael (1992 talk, New York)

Seán Cronin was originally an officer in the Free State army, who subsequently joined the IRA and became chief-of-staff planning and overseeing Operation Harvest (1956-62).  Later he lived in the USA and became US correspondent for the Irish Times.  He is the author of several books too, most famously Irish Nationalism: a history of its roots and ideology (Dublin, Academy Press, 1980).  Here he is in New York, 1992, speaking on Clan na Gael, the Fenian organisation in the United States in the 1800s and 1900s.

Connolly’s ‘Labour in Irish History’: study/discussion group

A study/discussion group based on Connolly’s Labour in Irish History started a couple of weeks ago.  With the lockdown across Ireland (and in other countries where socialist-republicans and supporters reside) many of us will have more time than we usually do for study, theory, political discussion, so let’s make use of it.

The studies have been initiated by Eirigi general-secretary Mickey Moran, but are open to any socialist-republican-minded people.  They take place on zoom and are very easy to access.  You can contact Mickey directly or, if you are shy, email me and I’ll put him onto you.  He’s: eirigigeneralsecretary@gmail.com

The sessions take place on Wednesday nights at 8.30 (Irish time, and British time).  If you’re elsewhere you will need to check what time that is wherever you are.

Last week we delved into two chapters where our political tradition begins to emerge, looking at the democratic and internationalist ideas of the United Irish movement of Wolfe Tone and at Emmet’s movement and the manifesto of the 1803 rebellion, which, if anything, was even more radical – for instance Emmet’s rebellion wanted to confiscate and nationalise Church property.

It was my privilege to do the introduction.

The next 2 chapters will be introduced by Fiona, as the sessions begin to move on from the great revolutionary democracy of the United Irishmen and Emmet, pre-runners of socialism, to the emergence of a more explicitly socialist politics in Ireland.  These chapters are:

Chapter 10 – The First Irish Socialist – A forerunner of Marx; this looks at the views and work of William Thompson in the late 1820s and early 1830s
Chapter 11 – An Irish Utopia; this looks at the Ralahine commune in Co. Clare in the 1830s

Anyone who doesn’t have a copy of the pamphlet/book can read it on the Marxist Internet Archive, here.

Veteran activist Diarmuid Breatnach on the Save Moore Street Campaign

Interview by Mick Healy with Diarmuid Breathnach on the Save Moore Street Campaign.

 

Mick also did an earlier interview with Diarmuid on his decades of political activism:

 

 

Liam Mellows’ Dail speech against the Treaty, January 4, 1922

I have very little to say on this subject that is before us, because I stand definitely against this so-called Treaty and the arguments in favour of acceptance— of compromise, of departing from the straight road, of going off the path, and the only path that I believe this country can travel to its freedom. These arguments are always so many, at all times and with all causes, while the arguments in favour of doing the right and straight thing are so few, because they are so plain. That is why I say I have very little to say.

Negotiating did not connote compromise

An effort has been made here from time to time by speakers who are in favour of this Treaty, to show that everybody here in this Dáil was prepared mentally or otherwise to compromise on this point, during the last few months. I wish, anyway, as one person, to state that is not so. I am speaking for myself now on this, and I state certainly that consciously or unconsciously, I did not agree to any form of compromise. We were told that when the negotiations took place we were compromised. We have been told that since this Dáil meeting. This is not so, because negotiations do not connote compromise.

Entering into negotiations with the British Government did not in the least presuppose that you were going to give away your case for independence. When the British Government, following upon the Truce, offered, as it did, to discuss this whole case of Ireland, Ireland had no option but to enter into such a discussion. To refuse to have done so would have been the worse thing for the Irish case, and would have put Ireland very wrong in the eyes of the world. There was no surrender involved in entering into such a discussion; and when the plenipotentiaries went on their journey to England they went, not as the plenipotentiaries of a Republican Party in Ireland, not as the envoys of any political creed in this country, but they went as the Envoys Plenipotentiary of the Irish Republican Government, and, as such, they had no power to do anything that would surrender the Irish Republic of which they were plenipotentiaries.

No mandate

They were sent there to make, if they could, a treaty of settlement—personally I doubt if it could be done—but they were not sent to bring about what I can only call a surrender. I am not placing the plenipotentiaries in the dock by stating this, but I am stating what are plain facts. It is no reflection on them to state these things. In item 3 of the instructions given to the plenipotentiaries it is stated: “It is also understood that the complete text of the draft Treaty about to be signed will be similarly submitted to Dublin and a reply awaited.” The Dáil had no chance of discussing this Treaty as it should be discussed because the ground was cut from under the feet of the Dáil with the publication of this Treaty to the world before the Dáil had a chance of discussing it. The delegates, I repeat, had no power to sign away the rights of Ireland and the Irish Republic.

They had no mandate to sign away the independence of this country as this Treaty does.

They had no power to agree to anything inconsistent with the existence of the Republic.

Now either the Republic exists or Read the rest of this entry

Ireland’s Marxist guerrillas: the story of the Saor Éire Action Group, 1967-73

by Mick Healy, in collaboration with several former Saor Eire members

(Mick wrote an article about Saor Eire which appeared on this site in 2011;  this is an updated and expanded version of that article, including new material added by former Saor Eire members; the article has been proofed and edited by me – PF)

The 1960s was a time of upheaval and change in conservative Irish society; social attitudes, fashion and music, for instance, all changed dramatically. New social movements reflected the thinking of a new generation that, in particular, wanted more freedom. The huge student-worker protests of May-June 1968 in France, the Vietnamese struggle to remove the US, its allies and their Vietnamese toadies, the US civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, and the national liberation struggles in Latin America and Africa galvanised opposition to the existing order. In Ireland, these events inspired people, especially the new generation, into action. This was especially the case around the civil rights movement in the north of Ireland. Among the new organisations which emerged here as a result of this new ferment and revolutionary idealism was the Dublin-based Saor Éire (SE) or, to give it its full name, the Saor Eire Action Group.

Saor Éire Action Group was established in the late 1960s by former members of the Republican Movement and newer young Irish political left activists coming together. As an organisation they claimed to have their roots in the Read the rest of this entry

Interview with veteran Irish working class and Marxist activist Kevin Keating

This is an interview that Mick did recently with Kevin Keating, a veteran activist in Dublin.  Kevin’s many years of activism go from the IRA to the fused People’s Democracy (merger of the original northern-based PD and the southern-based Movement for a Socialist Republic), which became Socialist Democracy in the later 1990s.

Kevin has very serious health problems these days.  Happily, this was one of his better days.

 

See also the interview with John McAnulty of SD.  John was a leading figure in People’s Democracy in Belfast over decades.  Mick spoke to him last October about the experience of 50 years of struggle.  See here.

Statement on Sinn Fein and PSNI by families of republicans murdered by UVF, with police help, in Cappagh, March, 1991

On March 3, 1991, pro-British terrorists of the Ulster Volunteer Force attacked people drinking at Boyle’s Bar in the village of Cappagh in the six counties (“Northern Ireland”).    They shot dead four people, three of whom were IRA members (Cappagh is a staunchly republican village).  Tommy O’Sullivan (51) was the civilian and was in the bar; John Quinn (23), Malcolm Nugent (20) and Dwayne O’Donnell (17) were the IRA Volunteers, who were shot in a car arriving in the car park.  Local IRA leader Brian Arthurs survived as patrons barricaded the doors when they heard shooting outside.  This was one of the many occasions in which loyalist killers collaborated with state forces.  Representatives of the families of the Cappagh Victims have released this statement, as Sinn Fein has been embracing the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), which is riddled with people involved in collaboration with loyalist killers, collaboration that is integral to the whole repressive apparatus of the British state in the occupied part of Ireland. – P.F.

Statement by Representatives of Families of Cappagh Victims

“On Sunday 3rd March 1991, our sons and brothers were stole from us, brutally murdered by agents of the state.

“Like many families out there who have lost their loved ones to state agents, the past can never be the past until we have the truth, until we have vindication that these deaths were wrong. We deserve recognition that these horrible acts were perpetrated upon us and that it should never have happened. We, as families have a right to the truth and any denial of this truth is a further act of vengeance on us.

“Any attempts to investigate the murders of our loved ones are faced with obstruction. The government fails to disclose material it holds that would allow us the truth to be established, inquests, ombudsman’s inquiries, litigation and police reviews that have been dragged on for decades for the sole purpose of delaying the process.

“The initial inquest was a whitewash! The forensics were Read the rest of this entry

“Our choice lay in submitting to foreign lawlessness or resisting it, and we did not hesitate to choose” – Roger Casement on trial for his life

In his 1914 book The Crime Against Ireland and How the War May Right it, Sir Roger Casement wrote, “Sedition (is) the natural garment for an Irishman to wear”.  Casement wore it well. 

A participant in the preparations for the 1916 Easter Rising, Casement landed at Banna Strand (northwest of Tralee) in Co. Kerry on board a ship from Germany with a large consignment of weaponry for the rebels.  However the rendezvous did not take place and Casement was captured on April 21, 1916.  He was subsequently held in Pentonville Prison in London, tried in London over four days in May, and hung for treason on August 3.  At his trial, he made a speech from the dock; he had written the body of it while in prison.  Below is the text.  I have broken up some paragraphs which were huge in the original.

This text is longer than that often found on the internet.  I had to type up additional chunks of text from where I found this – I have it taken it from The Great Prisoners: the first anthology of literature written in prison, selected and edited by Isidore Abramavotich, New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, 1946.  Abramovitch lists the range of his Casement sources on p869.

I have added subheads to break up the text.

Roger Casement:

My Lord Chief Justice, as I wish to reach a much wider audience than I see before me here, I intend to read all that I propose to say. What I shall read now is something I wrote more than twenty days ago. I may say, my lord, at once, that I protest against the jurisdiction of this Court in my case on this charge, and the argument that I am now going to read is addressed not to this Court, but to my own countrymen.

There is an objection, possibly not good in law, but surely good on moral grounds, against the application to me here of this old English statute, 565 years old, that seeks to deprive an Irishman to-day of life and honour, not for “adhering to the King’s enemies”, but for adhering to his own people.

When this statute was passed, in 1351, what was the state of men’s minds on the question of a far higher allegiance – that of a man to God and His kingdom?  The law of that day did not permit a man to forsake his church or deny his God save with his life.  The ‘heretic’ then had the same doom as the ‘traitor’.

Today a man may forswear God had His heavenly kingdom without fear of penalty, all earlier statutes having gone the way of Nero’s edicts against the Christians, but that Constitutional phantom, ‘The King’, can still dig up from the dungeons and torture chambers of the Dark Ages a law that takes a life and limb for an exercise of conscience.

If true religion rests on love, it is equally true that loyalty rests on love.  The law I am charged under has no parentage in love and claims the allegiance of to-day on the ignorance and blindness of the past.

I am being tried, in truth, not by my peers of the live present, but by the peers of the dead past; not by the civilisation of the twentieth century, but by the brutality of the fourteenth; not even by a statute framed in the language of an enemy land – so antiquated is the law that must be sought to-day to slay an Irishman, whose offence is that he puts Ireland first.

The Government of Ireland by England. . . can evoke no loyalty

Loyalty is a sentiment, not a law.  It rests on love, not on restraint.  The Government of Ireland by England rests on restraint and not on law; and since it demands no love it can evoke no loyalty.

But this statute is more absurd even than it is antiquated; and if it is potent to hang one Irishman, it is still more potent to gibbet all Englishmen.

Edward III was King not only of the realm of England, but also of the realm of France, and he was not King of Ireland.  Yet his dead hand to-day may pull the noose around the Irishman’s neck whose Sovereign he was not, but it can strain no strand around the Frenchman’s throat whose Sovereign he was.

For centuries the successors of Edward III claimed to be Kings of France, and quartered the arms of France on their royal shield down to the Union with Ireland on 1st January, 1801.  Throughout these hundreds of years these “Kings of France” were constantly at war with their realm of France and their French subjects, who should have gone from birth to death with an obvious fear of treason before their eyes.  But did they?  Did the “Kings of France” resident here at Windsor or in the Tower of London, hang, draw and quarter as a traitor every Frenchman for 400 years who fell into their hands with arms in his hand?  On the contrary, they received embassies of these traitors, presents from these traitors, even knighthood itself at the hands of these traitors, feasted with them, tilted with them, fought with them – but did not assassinate them by law.  Judicial assassination today is reserved  only for one race of the King’s subjects, for Irishmen; for those who cannot forget their allegiance to the realm of Ireland.

Slide by Robert Ehrlich

The Kings of England as such had no rights in Ireland up to the time of Henry VIII, save such as reasted on compact and mutual obligation entered between them and certain princes, chiefs and lords of Ireland.  This form of legal right, such as it was, gave no King of England lawful power to impeach an Irishman for high treason under this statute of King Edward III of England until an Irish Act, known as Poyning’s Law, the 10th of Henry VII, was passed in 1494 at Drogheda, by the Parliament of the Pale in Ireland, and enacted as law in that part of Ireland.  But if by Poyning’s Law an Irishman of the Pale could be indicted for high treason under this Act, he could be indicted only in one way and before one tribunal – by the laws of the realm in Ireland and in Ireland.

The very law of Poyning’s, which, I believe, applies this statute of Edward III to Ireland, enacted also for the Irishman’s defence, “All those laws by which England claims her liberty”.  And what is the fundamental charter of an Englishman’s liberty?  That he shall be tried by his peers.

“Not a jury of my peers”

With all respect I assert this Court is to me, an Irishman, not a jury of my peers to try me in this Read the rest of this entry