Category Archives: Ireland and British revolution

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 States, 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.

“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

Frank Keane, veteran socialist-republican and former national organiser of Saor Eire, interview

Frank Keane is one of the living people I most admire and respect.  The questions for this interview were written by myself and Mick Healy, and Mick conducted the actual interview.  Mick has done more than anyone to retrieve the story of Saor Eire, which disbanded in 1973, and its significance and relevance.

 

Máirín Keegan commemoration, 1997

Commemoration in 1997, marking the 25th anniversary of the death of Irish revolutionary fighter Máirín Keegan.  Frank Keane is the main speaker.

SPI leaflet against 1911 Royal Visit

Britain’s George V visited Ireland in July 1911.  The protests against this visit were the first point we can see the coming together of the forces which would launch armed rebellion five years later.  Crucial to the protests was the Socialist Party, whose leaders included James Connolly and Constance Markievicz.

Two years later, Markievicz would be a central founding leader of the workers’ militia, the Irish Citizen Army, and serve on its Army Council from then until the Rising.  Connolly was living in Belfast at the time of the founding of the ICA in November 1913. He would return to Dublin and take over leadership of both the Transport Union and the ICA from James Larkin when Larkin departed for the United States in October 1914.

Below is the text of the leaflet issued in 1911 to Dublin workers by the SPI branch in the city. 

 

THE ROYAL VISIT.

“The great appear great to us only because we are on our knees:

                                                                              LET US RISE.”

Fellow-Workers,

As you are aware from reading the daily and weekly newspapers, we are about to be blessed with a visit from King George V.

Knowing from previous experience of Royal Visits, as well as from the Coronation orgies of the past few weeks, that the occasion will be utilised to make propaganda on behalf of royalty and aristocracy against the oncoming forces of democracy and National freedom, we desire to place before you some few reasons why you should unanimously refuse to countenance this visit, or to recognise it by your presence at its attendant processions or demonstrations. We appeal to you as workers, speaking to workers, whether your work be that of the brain or of the hand – manual or mental toil – it is of you and your children we are thinking; it is your cause we wish to safeguard and foster.

The future of the working class requires that all political and social positions should be open to all men and women; that all privileges of birth or wealth be abolished, and that every man or woman born into this land should have an equal opportunity to attain to the proudest position in the land. The Socialist demands that the only birthright necessary to qualify for public office should be the birthright of our common humanity.

Believing as we do that there is nothing on earth more sacred than humanity, we deny all allegiance to this institution of royalty, and hence we can only regard the visit of the King as adding Read the rest of this entry

John McAnulty on lessons of People’s Democracy & 50+ years of revolutionary struggle in Ireland

Some time back I suggested to my friend Mick that John McAnulty was someone he should interview for his series of videos.  I have a bit to do with John from time to time as I have immense admiration and respect for the original People’s Democracy group.  I finally met John in Belfast in 2013 and spent several hours talking to him.  Mick also got John down to speak in Dublin a couple of years ago to speak on political developments involving anarchism and Marxism (with anarchist Alan MacSimeon) in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Alan, sadly, has since died.

 

In Review: Marisa McGlinchey’s ‘Unfinished Business’

Marisa McGlinchey, Unfinished Business: the politics of ‘dissident’ Irish republicanism, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2019, 231pp; reviewed by Philip Ferguson

Marisa McGlinchey’s book should be read by all radical republicans, Marxists and anyone else genuinely interested in national liberation and socialism in Ireland.

Don’t be put off by the fact that the back cover features praise for the book from the likes of Lord Bew of the Stickies and Richard English, both of whom have carved out well-rewarded academic niches writing attacks on republicanism and producing material that can only aid British imperialism.  Their reasons for praising the book are entirely different from those of anti-imperialists.

There are two key strengths to this book.

One is that it is based on on a substantial set of interviews (90 in all) the author conducted with republicans opposed to the Good Friday Agreement and the Provo leadership’s move into the service of the British state and the statelets which are the result of partition in Ireland and the Provos’ move from sort sort of vision of socialism to embracing the market and capitalist austerity.

The other strength is that she largely lets the interviewees speak for themselves, rather than trying to stitch them up.  Thus, for instance, she refrains from referring to them in the book as “dissident” republicans – the book’s sub-title was chosen, presumably, by the publisher.  Instead, she refers to them by the much more accurate term of “radical republicans” and treats them as rational political activists rather than some kind of pathology.

The interviewees, some of whom are now dead and some of whom have left the organisation they were in at the time they were interviewed, cover the gamut of radical republican groups, some of which are linked to armed organisations and some of which are not.  Thus the interviewees include independents and members of Eirigi, RNU, Saoradh, the IRSP, RSF and the 32CSM.  They range from younger activists such as Louise Minihan to veterans who go back to the 1956-62 border campaign and even earlier, such as Peig King and Billy McKee.  Some of the activists support Read the rest of this entry