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Constance de Markievicz: Fact and Fiction – What do we really know about the Countess? Lecture, 12th March, Sligo March 7, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, Irish Politics, The Left.
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1. workers republic - March 8, 2014

I have read articles on 1916 written by Dr.Matthews , in Red Banner and heard her speak at the Museum (formally Collins barracks) on the Citizens Army, indeed I spoke to her about Lelia Larken.
It was obvious from the writings and lecture of Dr. Matthews that she was highly critical of the 1916 Rising and it’s leaders and a constant theme was that the that the the “Separation Women” were villified by the supposedly middle-class “Nationalist” propaganda and that the “Separation Women” , and the civilians wro were killed were Working Class.
From the point of view of national liberation, and Imperialism is the highist point of Capitalism pro-imperialist working class people are lumpen-proletarian to use Marx’s term. Connolly did not believe that the British Military would use artillery because Capitalists he believed would not destroy their own buildings, he was wrong! WW! was a battle between rival Capitalist Powers, they were prepared to use all measures to defeat the rising including destroying Dublins buildings and killing its civillians. It is also known thar the Republican prisoners were diliberately marched through a pro-British (Imperalist ) street. DR. Matthews is entitled to her opinions but we need to consider that her attitude to Constance will be coloured by them.
No one is perfect but there was a campaign to besmirch her name, claiming that she begged for her life at the court martial , this was proven to be a deliberate lie whe a ccopy of the court martial recorde was discovered recently.. Constanse was a woman charactor.and courage.

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2. Jim Monaghan - March 8, 2014

Some material here.http://theirishrevolution.wordpress.com/category/revolutionary-figures/constance-markievicz/ And I figure that Connolly had no illusions that the British would not destroy buildings. This is in my opinion an urban legend.

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ejh - March 8, 2014

In order to believe such a thing, presumably he’d have had to have thought that the war that had been in progress for two years had been carried out without destroying any buildings?

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3. Jolly Red Giant - March 8, 2014

Markievicz has an unwarranted reputation among the left. Markievicz, when Minister for Labour repeatedly threatened to use the IRA to break strikes and repeatedly warned the SF leadership of the need to undermine the workers movement to maintain the dominance of nationalism.

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EWI - March 8, 2014

I would welcome some further reading on this. Is there any online source?

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Jolly Red Giant - March 8, 2014

Nope – National Archives and copies of ITGWU paper.

Markievicz (at the very least) threatened to use the IRA to suppress the Bruree Soviet and the Castleconnell Soviet in 1921. In both cases the threat was never carried out – in the case of Bruree the company caved in to all the workers demands and in Castleconnell the local IRA were terrified that the suppression of the Soviet would have provoked a localised general strike (which it would).

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Jolly Red Giant - March 8, 2014

The IRA was used in an attempt to suppress farm labourers strikes around Bulgaden in East Limerick that did provoke a localised general strike.

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workers republic - March 8, 2014

Thanks JRJ for that bit of historical information.Do you know any authoritive book or series of articles dealing with the Irish soviets and the strikes of the ’20s?
Kathleen Clarke found
Constance’s attitude towards her patronising .
Probably because
Markievicz was the only female Commander and court-martialed it was inevitable that her role would be over-estimated and glamourised
glamourised.

Constancy wad

Kathleen Clarke didn’t

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Jolly Red Giant - March 8, 2014

A book – no – its on my to-do list

The best you can get is this TG4 documentary –

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Florrie O'Donoghue - March 9, 2014

JRG,

Could you please provide me with the relevant quotes to support the following (particularly the last few words):

“Markievicz, when Minister for Labour repeatedly threatened to use the IRA to break strikes and repeatedly warned the SF leadership of the need to undermine the workers movement to maintain the dominance of nationalism.”

I do not mean to be combative.

I have read Kostick, Mitchell and several others on this subject but I would still welcome as pure clarity as is possible in terms of the above assertion in the context of the fact that the “nationalists” were at the time engaged in a conflict with what was the largest empire in the history of the world. An empire which was also aggressively hyper-capitalist.

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Jolly Red Giant - March 9, 2014

In relation to the Bruree Soviet – source that Markiewicz threatened to use the IRA to suppress the Soviet –
O’Connor Lysaght, D.R., ‘The Munster Soviet Creameries’, Saothalann Staire Eireann, No.1, (Dublin, 1981), p.43

In relation to the Castleconnell Soviet – the Dail Cabinet (which included Markiewicz) ordered ‘the Minister for Home Affairs to instruct police to proceed with the aid of volunteers to eject strikers from Mr. Mackey’s premises.” – specifically, Markiewicz was instructed to contact the ITGWU and inform them of the intention of suppressing the Soviet using the IRA.
Dail Eireann Secretariat Files 1919-1922, DE 2 / 5, Document No. 180, List of Decisions at Meeting of the Ministry, Economic Affairs, Friday 2 December 1921.

In relation to warnings by Markiewicz about the impact of strikes –
‘the unemployed are already looking to us to do something towards providing work…one has to face the fact that complaints have come to this office of men of the I.R.A. taking part in labour disputes. Evidence has also come to me that in some areas the workers are not willing to submit to the authority of their Executive and are beginning to get out of hand. What is to be feared in the near future is:- small local outbreaks growing more and more frequent and violent, the immediate result of which will be, destruction of property and much misery which will tend to disrupt the Republican cause’.
Dail Eireann Secretariat Files 1919-1922, DE 2/483, Minister for Labour, Economic Policy, Document No. 247, National Archives, Dublin

Finally in relation to the farm labourers strike at Bulgaden – on 21 Nov 1921 the IRA arrested and held four strike leaders (in effect they were kidnapped). The kidnappings provoked a general strike in Kilmallock and its environs and over 300 workers marched with red flags through Kilmallock demanding the release of the strikers – in effect the workers took over Kilmallock. The general strike continued until late the following day when the IRA were forced to release the strikers. Three weeks later the IRA kidnapped another strike leader but were forced to release him after the workers threatened a further general strike encompassing all of Limerick.

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4. Dr.Nightdub - March 8, 2014

Sean O’Casey was quite scathing about the true extent of Markievicz’s involvement in both the Lockout and the Citizens Army. It’s a while since I read Ann Matthews’ “Renegades” about the women who were prominent in the early 20th century nationalist movement, but from what I recall, she paints Markievicz as a bit of a dilettante dabbling in revolution

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Bob Smiles - March 8, 2014

Though I do not agree with the books dismissal of the IRA Conor kostick revolution in Ireland goes into detail on various strikes

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Florrie O'Donoghue - March 9, 2014

A dilettante who died how and when?

I have read both of Dr Matthews’ books, but on this I find it hard to agree with her.

Is mise srl.,

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Jim Monaghan - March 9, 2014

She fought in 1916. O’Casey had other things to do. He ended up an arch Stalinist. His son op[posed him on this.

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Jolly Red Giant - March 9, 2014

O’Casey opposed the participation of Connolly and the ICA in the Rising – and he was correct to do so. Where he ended up politically does not mean he was automatically wrong on everything he said/did.

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que - March 9, 2014

Well Connolly was of course also a nationalist so its not surprising that he also seized the opportunity

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EWI - March 11, 2014

Can you really be an effective socialist (or whatever) and not also appeal to nationalism? It’s all very well to appeal to “international camaraderie”, but most of those comrades are a very long way off indeed, and an appeal to “Irish workers” is much more practical and to the point.

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5. roddy - March 8, 2014

I’m surprised at Declan Bree being anti 1916.

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Bob Smiles - March 8, 2014

Does he not like that year in particular? It doesn’t say anything about 1916 on the poster.

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6. roddy - March 9, 2014

Workers Republic says that Dr Matthews is highly critical of 1916 and its leaders.Declan Bree is chairing a talk by this individual which given her background is guaranteed to be hostile to both Constance and the rising.Bree has described himself in the past as a Connolly socialist.Why then is he chairing an event of this nature.?

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7. Brian Hanley - March 10, 2014

The Bureau of Military History Witness Statements contain some valuable insights into popular reactions to the Easter Rising and the relationship between republicans and the so-called ‘Separation women’

http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/bmhsearch/search.jsp

John Dorney has also written on this:

http://www.theirishstory.com/2013/08/08/the-rabble-and-the-republic/#.Ux1s3V5jE7A

There were clashes between republicans and what they usually called ‘Separation women’ or ‘the rabble’ in Limerick, Waterford, Ennis, Tullamore, Cork, Galway and elsewhere between 1914-1919. Nobody has really investigated it in detail. There were persistent claims during the war that soldier’s female relatives were drunkards. How much of that idea was based on gender and class prejiduce is unclear.
I think using terms like ‘lumpen proletariat’ is a cop-out. The unskilled poor were at the heart of the Lockout, particularly the fighting with the police- did they become lumpen by 1916? I think its a term the left uses for members of the working class that it doesn’t like. It’s also worth examining why so many of the urban poor supported the Home Rule party in the 1918 elections.

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Gewerkschaftler - March 10, 2014

Thanks for the John Dorney link, Brian.

It makes clearer some of the ‘mixed messages’ I heard as a child from my lumpen-proletariat grandparents, some of whose parents were dependent on the separation allowances from soldiers getting bits of themselves blown off at the front.

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8. Séamus - March 10, 2014

Christ, Ann Matthews speaking on Constance Markievicz. That’ll definitely be fair and balanced (in the Fox News sense).

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EWI - March 11, 2014

Who exactly is she? From what Google reveals, she seems to be in the Harris mould.

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Séamus - March 11, 2014

Markievicz and Maud Gonne are her personal bêtes noires, she feels that they are too prominent in 20th century Irish women’s history and so has made it her personal mission to take them down a few pegs. You’d be hard pressed to find Matthews make a positive comment about eitehr of them. Even when it comes to the huge levels of admiration and respect that Markievicz and Gonne are held in by their own contemporaries, Matthews writes this off as some kind of class subservience by the working class women to their social betters.

I’m not sure I’d necessarily put Matthews in the same mold as Harris. She does make a great deal of effort though to draw attention to those who were inconvenienced by the Rising. Take for example this anecdote from a programme about Margaret Skinnider where Matthews laments the case of a woman who couldn’t take the family to Bray for the day.

There is of course a point to be made about the civilian casualties of the Rising but this often seems to get dragged into an anti-republican narrative.

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Séamus - March 11, 2014

Sorry, Matthews’ anecdote starts at 15:20 in the video

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9. CB - March 10, 2014

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUWt8-LhOSs Here is a video of Ann Mathews speaking at the People’s College lecture on the Irish Revolution. The title of the lecture is the Myth of Gender Equality, Women revolutionaries in The Citizen Army and Cumann na mBan in the rising of 1916.

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10. doctorfive - March 11, 2014

Ann Mathews had a fairly lively debate with Shane MacThomais on radio last month. Well worth a listen.

http://www.rte.ie/radio1/the-history-show/programmes/2014/0202/500706-the-history-show-sunday-2-february-2014/?clipid=1404747

I will have to take a look at the book as I something didn’t sit right about the People’s College lecture when I listened to it last week. She appeared very comprehensive in the points she was making but I wasn’t entirely clear what myth of gender equality she was questioning.

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shea - March 11, 2014

bar the issue of second in command i think she held her self well in that backing her points with reference to documentary evidence. Shane did as well, maybe the evidence is open to interpretation.

don’t see why shooting the copper is a problem, liked her book on the kimmage garrison what ever about her position on markeivicz i agree with her on second generations being written out of the creation myth of this state.

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11. Jim Monaghan - March 11, 2014

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