Category Archives: The road to the Easter Rising

Street Stories Festival, Smithfield, Dublin, Fri, Dec 1 – Sun, Dec 3

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Where, oh where, is our James Connolly?

by Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh

“There is always some excuse ready for evasion. The difficulty is, that every party likes some part of the truth; no party likes it all; but we must have it all, every line of it. We want no popular editions and no philosophic selections—the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” —Terence MacSwiney, Principles of Freedom

SIPTU’s Head of Research publicly announced in 2001 that the union would be sponsoring “the publication in several volumes of all Connolly’s articles and letters”, which would “at last enable us to appreciate Connolly’s own originality and greatness to the full”.1 I happened to be sitting next to him on the platform, and in my own contribution I welcomed the announcement but hoped people wouldn’t take it as a signal to sit back and think all was now well in the world of publishing Connolly. I was aiming for that curious amalgam that goes under the name of ‘cautious optimism’, and probably came off as a moany old begrudger. In fact, I was guilty of being far too generous altogether.

Recovering Connolly

My presence on that platform was a result of the momentum that had been building up for five years previously. On the unveiling of a statue of Connolly in Dublin in 1996, I was allowed to point out in the programme that hundreds of his articles had never been made available since their original publication, and to republish the first Connolly work for twenty years.2 The year after, The Lost Writings was published, in which I assembled 65 articles of his unpublished since his execution. It never ceased to amaze me how many people were under the sincere impression up until then that all of Connolly’s work was available. The Collected Works title put on a reprint of previous Connolly selections in 1987-8 had been taken all too literally by many. Also in 1997 Red Banner began its ‘Hidden Connolly’ series, underlining that The Lost Writings wasn’t even the half of it.

A group including some prominent labour historians then tried to get an initiative off the ground which would assemble a team of researchers to publish all of Connolly’s works, an initiative which had the blessing of the Labour Party leader (dubious as that may be). But the SIPTU announcement cut the feet from under that. While ‘The Hidden Connolly’ continued to mine a seemingly inexhaustible seam, any impetus towards publishing Connolly’s complete writings was sucked into the Liberty Hall plughole.

The first fruit of SIPTU’s project appeared in 2005 in the shape of a Connolly biography by Dónal Nevin. It was a disappointing work, but promised Read the rest of this entry

Sylvia Pankhurst on the 1916 Rising

Sylvia Pankhurst was a leader of the struggle for women’s right to vote in Britain.  Primarily involved in organising working class women in the East End of London, she was increasingly attracted to Marxism.  Her support for workers’ struggles led to her being expelled from the bourgeois-feminist Women’s Social and Political Union, led by her mother Emmeline and sister Christabel.  While the feminist family members turned into warmongers in the First World War, Sylvia organised against the war on a working class and anti-imperialist basis.  She was one of the small handful of major figures on the British left who supported the national liberation struggle in Ireland, including the 1916 Rising.  This article was originally published in the Women’s Dreadnought of May 13, 1916, the day after the last of the executions of leaders of the Rising.  The paper soon after changed its name to Workers Dreadnought.   The text below is taken from the Marxist Internet Archive. 

by Sylvia Pankhurst

Justice can make but one reply to the Irish rebellion, and that is to demand that Ireland shall be allowed to, govern herself.

Differences of opinion in England, Scotland, or Wales as to what measure of self-government Ireland is to have ought not to affect the matter – by the “freedom of small nations” which the British Government has so bombastically sworn to defend, this is essentially a question for Ireland herself to decide. Let a popular vote be taken in Ireland as to whether, she shall be an independent, self-governing republic, or an autonomous part of the British Empire, like Australia and New Zealand. That is the only method by which the Irish difficulty can be solved and Ireland learn content.

The “firm and vigorous administration” which The Times demands for Ireland, which we suspect is but another term for coercion, and such suggestions as that of the professing Liberal, Professor Longford, that conscription shall be applied to Ireland, and that the Irish Rebels shall be set free on condition that they join the Army, will only lead to Read the rest of this entry

Lindie Naughton’s biography of Markievicz

I must admit that when I saw journalist Lindie Naughton had a book coming out on Markievicz my initial response was one of trepidation.  Even if it was a good book, what was there left to put into a Markievicz bio that hadn’t already been covered by Anne Marreco, Jacqueline Van Voris, Diana Norman and Anne Haverty?

To my delight – especially since I bought the book after a few internet chats with Lindie  – I can report that Lindie’s biography does bring more stuff to the table and is a really good read.  In fact, I found reading the lead-up to the Rising had me quite excited, indeed riveted.

Lindie has made a good deal of use of the Bureau of Military History archives, most particularly the witness statements from the revolutionary period.

She seems to have been through papers of the time pretty methodically, looking for more stuff by and about Markievicz, as well as using the body of Markievicz’s articles that I dug up in the 1980s and put up on this site when I started it.

One result is that, even though I think a know a lot about Markievicz, I have found out more by reading this book.  I think it’s also interesting that Lindie has brought a journalist’s research skills to the work – these are far superior to those of a so-called professional historian like Anne Matthews.  And, speaking of Matthews, Lindie puts another nail in the coffin of Matthews’ attempt to frame up Markievicz for shooting an unarmed Dublin cop at point-blank range and then gloating over it (Anne Haverty also demolishes this frame-up).  I did, however, think Lindie could have said a bit more about the problematic nature of the Geraldene Fitzgerald claim to have witnessed Markievicz killing the Dublin policeman and exulting over it, especially as she had mentioned to me some problems with the Fitzgerald statement.  While Anne Haverty utterly demolishes Matthews’ attempt to stitch up Markievicz on that one, Lindie does, however, show it to be highly unlikely that Markievicz did any such thing.  Also, Lindie notes that Connolly had specifically ordered ICA members not to shoot unarmed cops and soldiers.

Below is a page from Lindie’s bio.  It will give you a taste for the book and, I hope, encourage you to go out and buy it.  It deserves to sell well and be well-read.  The extract deals with some stuff at Liberty Hall a few weeks before the Rising:

By the time the police returned, Connolly, Constance and Helena Molony, all armed, were Read the rest of this entry

Fenian Declaration of an Irish Republic, 1867

Taken from An Sionnach Fionn; GRMMA, mo chara.  It’s the 1867 Fenian declaration of an Irish Republic.

The Irish People to the World

We have suffered centuries of outrage, enforced poverty, and bitter misery. Our rights and liberties have been trampled on by an alien aristocracy, who treating us as foes, usurped our lands, and drew away from our unfortunate country all material riches. The real owners of the soil were removed to make room for cattle, and driven across the ocean to seek the means of living, and the political rights denied to them at home, while our men of thought and action were condemned to loss of life and liberty. But we never lost the memory and hope of a national existence. We appealed in vain to the reason and sense of justice of the dominant powers. Our mildest remonstrance’s were met with sneers and contempt. Our appeals to arms were always unsuccessful.

Today, having no honourable alternative left, we again appeal to force as our last resource. We accept the conditions of appeal, manfully deeming it better to die in the struggle for freedom than to continue an existence of utter serfdom.

All men are born with equal rights, and in associating to protect one another and share public burdens, justice demands that such associations should rest upon a basis which maintains equality instead of destroying it.

We therefore declare that, unable longer to endure the curse of Monarchical Government, we aim at founding a Read the rest of this entry

1916 Commemoration, Bray, Sunday, April 15, 2017

New book on Margaret Skinnider

This taken from emyvale.net, here.  I’ve divided it into paragraphs and corrected some typos and punctuation.

wp0bccdebe_05The launch of the much-anticipated book on Margaret Skinnider took place in the Markethouse, Monaghan, on Tuesday, January 17th 2017. MC for the event was Josephine O’Hagan, who introduced the various speakers. Mackie Rooney, who had a major input in the production of the book, gave a detailed history of the Margaret Skinnider Appreciation Society and the developments since its foundation.

The increasing interest in the person of Margaret Skinnider and her connection to North Monaghan, and Cornagilta in particular, as the ruins of her family homestead are situated there, led to the production of the book and, even though there were a number of difficulties to be overcome, the book was now ready for launch.

During this background it was pleasing to hear that emyvale.net was instrumental in Read the rest of this entry

Kevin Bean on revolution and counter-revolution in Ireland, c1880-1930

Kevin’s book The New Politics of Sinn Fein (Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, 2007) is essential reading for tracing the evolution of the Provos and how the British state drew them into a process of betrayal.  The talk below is from last August (August 2016), given at the Communist University in London.

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

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