Category Archives: Trade unions

95th anniversary of execution of Rory O’Connor, Joe McKelvey, Dick Barrett and Liam Mellows

December 8 marked the 95th anniversary of the execution without trial of left-republicans Liam Mellows (1895-1922), Rory O’Connor (1883-1922), Joe McKelvey (1898-1922) and Dick Barrett (1889-1922).  The four had been taken prisoner after the surrender of the anti-Treaty forces in the Four Courts in Dublin on June 30.

In the ten months of the civil war the Free State would murder in cold blood more republicans than the British had in the almost three years of the war for independence (aka the Tan War).

 

Further reading (three chapters from my old MA thesis, written in 1995 and the first few months of 1996):

From Truce to Treaty: the pan-nationalist front divides

Civil war, counter-revolution and the consolidation of the Free State

Winners and Losers in an Unfree State

 

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The 1932 Belfast Outdoor Relief riots and lessons for today

Seán Mitchell, Struggle or Starve: Working-Class Unity in Belfast’s 1932 Outdoor Relief Riots, Chicago, Haymarket Books, 2017

Does intense class conflict with bosses, cops and government necessarily lead workers to draw radical conclusions asks Barney Cassidy? To put the question another way, does struggle mean that the working class becomes conscious of what is in its own best interests?

In 1922 striking miners defending their jobs in the South African town of Witwatersand fought gun battles in the streets killing about 70 troops. The political conclusion those white workers drew from their experiences was that they needed a Nationalist-Labour Pact with the Afrikaaner Nationalist Party. This was despite the involvement of the newly founded Communist Party of South Africa in the struggle. Even intense and bloody class conflict is no guarantee that the working class will necessarily act in its own best interests.

That’s a lesson it’s worth holding in mind when reflecting on politics in the north of Ireland.

Seán Mitchell, a member of Read the rest of this entry

From the IRA to Saor Eire: Remembering socialist-republican Liam Walsh

Liam Walsh’s funeral cortege, Dublin, October 1970

 

by Mick Healy

Liam Pearse Walsh, who was born in Dublin in 1933, was totally committed to whatever he did: to his trade as a fitter-welder or the Socialist Republican struggle.  He was fiercely loyal to those around him: his comrades, family and especially his four young daughters.

Recruited into the Irish Republican Army by Liam Sutcliffe in 1954, Liam Walsh was active in Operation Harvest, the IRA border campaign of 1956-1962, eventually becoming the Commanding Officer of the South Dublin Unit of the IRA.

In 1957, he was interned without trial in 1957 in the Curragh Internment Camp in Co. Kildare.  His girlfriend, Jacqueline Barry, and his father, Joseph,visited him and brought food parcels and cigarettes.

Shortly after they were married in 1960, Liam and Jacqueline, like many of their generation, Read the rest of this entry

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

United Wolfe Tone Commemoration: Time for hope – time for radical change.

pics and words by Mick Healy

The Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum held their first commemoration at the grave of Theobald Wolfe Tone in Bodenstown, Co. Kildare, on Sunday, 20 August 2017.  The gathering attracted a large crowd of socialist-republicans, communists, trade unionists, and women’s and community groups who marched from the village of Sallins to Bodenstown graveyard. The march was led by a colour party from the 1916 Societies, followed by a large banner declaring “Break the Connection with Imperialism” carried by members of the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum.

Colourful banners and flags from socialist-republican group Eirigi and the Communist Party of Ireland, along with rousing tunes from a republican flute band, lifted the spirits as the marchers made their way, in very wet conditions, to the monument in Bodenstown Churchyard.

The main oration was delivered by John Douglas of Mandate trade union.

Wreaths were laid by Eirigi, the International Brigades society, trade unionist Mick O’Reilly on behalf of Dublin Trades Council, the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum, Mandate trade union, the Communist Party of Ireland, 1916 Societies and many other organisations. The Internationale were sung and the clenched fist salute was given.

20 August, 2017, could be a historic date bringing together socialist-republicans, communists and trade unionists for the first time at Bodenstown in decades. The large contingent of young people evident at this event shows the continuing growth of left-wing republicanism that hopefully can be harnessed in the future for anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist projects.

 

Blog news, 14/8/2017

I am currently reading Charlie McGuire’s bio of Sean McLoughlin.

I am going to type up a couple of articles that cde McLoughlin, comdt-general at the end of Easter Week 1916, wrote during the civil war.

McLoughlin, of course, opposed the Treaty and was involved in organising against the Free State at both the military and poltical level, including workers’ soviets.

I will also be working on typing up some more Fintan Lalor articles.

And, hopefully, put in links to some interesting articles from various sources over the last few years.

If I get really disciplined – like really, really disciplined – I will get onto the book reviews I keep promising.

 

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

Union leaders betray Bus Eireann workers – a bus worker responds

While workers were prepared to fight, union leaders took fright

The following is taken from Socialist Democracy’s site, where it appeared on May 22 (last Monday), here

Let’s not beat about the bush! The demobilisation of the Bus Eireann strike is an attack on the interests of the working class facilitated by the bureaucratic leadership of our trade unions. It is a betrayal pure and simple!

The methods that could deliver victory were presented before the watching world by the sudden eruption of flying pickets and sympathy strikes which were promptly and hypocritically disowned by the Union leaders but which had the capacity to impose the will of the strikers on the struggle.

From just one day of enthusiastically supported action we get a view of what class struggle tactics would look like and how effective they would be. We now also get a plain view that complying with the full-time leaderships’ rules of engagement, agreed with the employers and the state, leads to defeat.

Leaders attempt at ‘containment’

The Labour Court deal was clearly supported by the trade union bureaucrats from the beginning as their way out of a conflict they had tried desperately to avoid. They had Read the rest of this entry

Bus Eireann: Rank and file action puts defeat of privatisation on the agenda

 

Socialist Democracy Statement, 4 April 2017

The action that can guarantee victory in the Bus Eireann struggle is the unofficial action taken by the drivers on Friday 31st March. The strike must be broadened. If it sits still, it risks being strangled.

Flying pickets should bring out Iarnrod Eireann, Dublin Bus and private bus services. Everyone’s wages and conditions will suffer if the strike is broken. Transport across the country must be brought to a halt now without a long delay for further votes.

But that’s a big ask. It’s a big ask for other workers to lose pay and take the risk of striking without the protection of an official dispute. It’s a big ask for travellers who may lose pay and suffer a great deal of inconvenience.

The strike demands must put forward the needs of everyone: A decent wage for workers that is not pared to the bone in the interests of speculators. A national public transport system designed around the needs of the people that excludes privatisation. A broader call against the sell-off of resources and services in the interests of vulture capitalism.

The top union officials are a major obstacle to success. Effective wildcat action is organised by the drivers while the officials wash Read the rest of this entry

After the Stormont election: the way forward

by John McAnulty

The common assertion arising from the latest election in the North of Ireland is that Sinn Fein now has the upper hand. That reform of the local settlement is now inevitable and Gerry Adams has gone so far as to assert that a united Ireland is now back on the agenda.

However the loss of the overall unionist majority is largely a profound psychological shock rather than a practical issue. The seats are:

DUP SF  SDLP  UUP ALLIANCE OTHER
(inc 2 Green, 1PBP) 
28  27  12  10 8 5

 

So The DUP remains the largest party and would nominate the first minister. The loss of the overall majority relies on the dubious idea that Alliance is not a unionist party – they have in the past designated themselves as unionist to save the assembly and until recently fulfilled a role as lynch pin for the sectarian setup by holding the justice ministry position.

In addition in the coming negotiations Sinn Fein will be facing the British government. They themselves have complained that the pro-unionist positions of the British secretary, James Brokenshire, should make him unsuitable as chair.  They will also be appealing to a Dublin government hostile to Sinn Fein that acts as an agent of reaction in both parts of the Island. 

The settlement in Ireland is not designed to lead to a united Ireland and the issue depends entirely on gaining permission from Britain to hold a vote restricted to the six-county area – permission that will not be forthcoming.  Read the rest of this entry