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Remembering and forgetting the remembering… April 5, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in History.

…from Paraffinalia an analysis of Elaine Byrne’s piece in the Guardian on ‘the Irish who fought for Britain in the First World War’. As someone who went through the school system five years before Michael I can fully agree with his point that there was a knowledge of the Irish who fought for Britain. And the following certainly rings a bell:

Part of the nationalist narrative was that Irishmen under Redmond had been, in effect, tricked into fighting for Britain, which claimed to be defending the rights of small nations such as Belgium, and which had granted Home Rule to Ireland, though it clearly had no intention of imposing it. Whatever the validity of that narrative, it certainly did not ignore Irish involvement in the war.

The idea that The Irish National War Memorial Gardens were unknown to most is also a somewhat dubious proposition not least because as Michael notes they were a source of controversy through much of the 80s.

So not so much forgetting as perhaps not quite contextualising that history in its entirety, which is as Michael implies a distinctly different matter.

More from wikileaks February 25, 2014

Posted by doctorfive in History, Irish History, Irish Politics.
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I have been rooting in wikileaks cables elsewhere but also came across this on the 1976 Labour conference

SUMMARY: The annual labour party conference in limerick (nov 19 – 21) produced no surprises. Brendan Corish was reaffirmed as party leader and his policy of continuing the coalition through the next election won a crushing 6 to 1 victory over a group of left-wing mavericks.

1. The quote moderate unquote leadership thoroughly slapped down the leftists led by David Thornley, Noel Browne and John O’Connell. A motion was passed forbidding any labour member or group to associate publicly with another political party without the prior permission of the administrative council. This effectively prevents the leftists, known as quote the alliance unquote from continuing their quote left alternative unquote dialogue with the official Sinn Féin and communists.

2. Corish gave a lackluster performance, very much in the tradition of Irish political leaders, but it was obvious that his leadership is stronger than ever and he will continue as labor leader unless he voluntarily steps down. Corish promised that he would have very tough conditions for partner Fine Gael before he would agree to coalition. Easily the best speech of the conference was given by dr. Conor Cruise O’Brien, who castigated the Fianna Fáil quote support of the provo demand for British withdrawal unquote as the height of irresponsibility. He also strongly condemned the continued sectarianism in the republic. These positions are not new with O’Brien, but he expressed them with a particularly caustic brilliance.

3. Of the old leadership Jim Tully and Justin Keating were strong and persuasive. Keating, especially, gave a long and convincing defence of the Labour performance in the coalition. Two new stars received considerable attention: new td Brendan Halligan and new party member senator Mary Robinson (a former independent, she joined the party just prior to the conference).

Halligan did little speaking from the floor, but according to a number of sources he was the principal deputy of Corish in managing the conference. He did very well, and everyone was surprised at the smooth handling of dissidents – the 6 to 1 vote for coalition was far higher than expected. Halligan is also very popular with the press. Mary Robinson is somewhat the opposite of Halligan – a fiery orator, rather leftist, and not an organization type at all. If she enters the Dáil in the next election as expected she will make the old guard rather uncomfortable. Already she’s being touted as the quote conscience unquote of the Labour party.

4. The show of unity and tight control was a bit tarnished by rumblings in the trade union ranks over the conduct of the party. The most serious defection from that side was Denis Larkin, head of Ireland’s second largest union (worker’s union of Ireland), who announced that his union would hold a special delegate conference to examine its relationship to the party and coalition. Larkin also flatly warned that the unions would not accept a statutory wages policy.

5. Comment: although the conference was the smoothest and least contentious on record, there is little to indicate that labour has done anything to arrest its slow decline. It slipped to 13.6 percent of the vote in 1973, down from 17 percent in 1969, and the few polls indicate that it has not regained any ground. Unfortunately for labour its constituency tends to blame it more for the current economic woes than the Fine Gael constituency blames the Fine Gael. (fancy that -d5)

The labour party leadership in Ireland has always been a small, rather politically inept group of intellectuals. Unlike the British labour party there is no symbiotic relationship between the unions and their party, and at present union and party leadership seem to be drifting further apart. There is, however, no comfortable place for disaffected labour voters to go. Both of the major parties are conservative and have no historic attraction to Labour. The two tiny left wing parties, official Sinn Féin and the communist, are beyond the pale because of their quote atheist unquote approach which does not go down in this catholic country.

At present it seems that Labour will either stay about the same or perhaps increase slightly in next year’s election, maintaining enough seats to constitute the balance of power. However, labour disaffection could result in a lost election for the coalition if Labour voters show their dissatisfaction by shifting their second preference votes to Fianna Fáil.

I wasn’t aware of these older cables until reading this fascinating LRB piece on Assange. The period released covers Kissinger’s time as Secretary of State and 1973 to 1976 was an equally interesting time here at home. I have compiled what’s there on the McGee case for rabble and will be taking a look at the Sinn Féin split and other matters over the next few days. 

Europe’s Violent Memories February 21, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in History.
1 comment so far


“The Lockout And Its Heritage” 6th February The Teachers’ Club January 26, 2014

Posted by irishelectionliterature in History.
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A poster advertising “The Lockout And Its Heritage” with speaker Rayer O’Connor Lysaght which is in The Teachers’ Club, Parnell Square on the 6th of February.
Many thanks to the sender.

Stories of the Congress ….. January 3, 2014

Posted by irishelectionliterature in History, Religion.

Two small excerpts from a 1932 edition of a Hong Kong Catholic Magazine ‘The Rock’ which was a special issue covering The Eucharistic Congress which came into my possession today.


Social capital? January 2, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, History, The Left.

There was a curious and thought provoking piece on Slate some time back on the issue of social capital. It argued that the contemporary concentration on civil society may be a little awry. Now, let’s start by noting that for some on the right this approach would be a boon.

The term social capital is generally used to describe the trust and cooperation in a community that is the result of formal social institutions—associations, clubs, and the like—as well as personal networks and relationships. On some level, economists think of it as another source of productivity in an economy, just like tractors or new technologies (physical capital) or a better-skilled workforce (human capital). Trust makes it easier to do business on a handshake (or indeed to do business at all). A trustworthy labor force will work diligently without supervisors peering over their shoulders or burdensome regulations, and a trustworthy boss will return the favor, ensuring employees are paid on time and in full, and generally treated fairly.

And continues:

The same civic associations that build trust, cooperation, and community also serve as ready networks for the spread of new movements and ideas. It is in this sense that Voigtländer and his colleagues argue (following an idea put forth by Barnard political scientist Sheri Berman) that the richness of interwar Germany’s social capital was critical to the success of Hitler’s National Socialist party. They quote one member’s recollection of his conversion to Nazism to highlight the role of social networks in making party dogma palatable to a wide audience. The young recruit describes how he “became acquainted with a colleague of my own age with whom I had frequent conversations … whom I esteemed very highly. When I found out that he was one of the local leaders of the National Socialist party, my opinion of it as a group of criminals changed completely.”

Worse again, Weimar was notable for the range of such civic associations.

If the prevalence of civic associations is a measure of societal well-being, the Weimar Republic was in excellent health as Hitler began his march to power in the 1920s. Many of these organizations were built on an already rich history of associations from the 19th century, and while a few of these were explicitly nationalistic and even anti-Semitic in nature, the vast majority of membership groups were comprised of those united by rabbit breeding, stamp collecting, singing, gymnastics, and other decidedly apolitical interests.

But one thinks of the Rotary Club, which the Nazi’s used to spread their message. In a way one can see the benefits. Here were fairly innocuous effectively social organisations with a fairly markedly middle and upper middle class aspect to them. By engaging with them the Nazi’s were able to mask their agenda and to further it by drawing more towards them.

Of course one must point to caveats. Not all organisations are the same. Obviously more political groups weren’t open to the Nazi’s in quite this way. But their ability to use those that they could enter is striking.

Of course many of us are, if not quite sceptical of civil society or civic associations of one form or another, aware of the fact they can be diversionary and open to co-option. One thinks of how parts of sectors in this society were cooped by the state during the boom in such a way as to defang them. The unions obviously, part of the voluntary sector, and so on. So there’s no harm at all in recognising that the uncritical view of them as a near unalloyed good is perhaps a little wide of the mark, and a lot to think about here.

Operation Unthinkable: The war that never happened December 26, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in History, Uncategorized.

I hadn’t heard of this before, though apparently it became public knowledge in 1998, but apparently according to this pretty comprehensive overview in a Russian/Indian online publication:

…the ink had barely dried on Germany’s surrender document when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill asked his War Cabinet to draw up a plan to invade the Soviet Union.

This was driven by a sense on Churchill’s part that the USSR had gained too much and Britain too little from the war. Perhaps he realised that the post-War dispensation was going to see the latter displaced by the United States and the Soviet Union. Perhaps too he was, quite simply, too old, too used to violence. It’s somewhat chilling to read the following:

According to Alan Brooke, Britain’s Chief of Army Staff, Churchill told him at the Potsdam Conference in July 1945: “We can tell the Russians if they insist on doing this or that, well we can just blot out Moscow, then Stalingrad, then Kiev, then Sevastopol.”

That sort of glibness about what would – of course – be mass murder, whatever one’s thoughts about Stalin and the high Stalinist period in the USSR, suggests a certain detachment from reality. This wasn’t unnoticed by his own armed forces:

Asked to prepare for war just days after the end of the bloodiest conflict in history, the British generals thought the Prime Minister had really lost it. Brooke wrote in his diary: “Winston gives me the feeling of already longing for another war.”
The generals drew up a plan, appropriately codenamed Operation Unthinkable, which proposed Western forces attack the Soviets on a front extending from Hamburg in the north to Trieste in the south.

And the British military was all too well aware of how thinly spread their forces were during that period. With 103 divisions against the Soviets 264 it is implausible that any conflict would have been easy, even if one factors in the then dubious proposition that Poland and others states being subsumed into the Soviet orbit would have been in any position to rise up and assist such a war.

Ironically, in view of the rhetoric of the subsequent Cold War, British military planners thought it possible that the US might simply not be interested, particularly since they were bearing the brunt of the war in the Pacific. Of course this wasn’t the only curious plan unveiled in the dying days of the Second World War.

There’s more on this here.

The article mentions the Morgenthau Plan, whose aim was to destroy ‘forever’ the prospect of a united, industrialised Germany by destroying the country’s industry and forcing it to return to an agrarian stage of development. Thankfully wiser heads prevailed.

Labour & Dignity – James Connolly in America Exhibition December 9, 2013

Posted by Garibaldy in History.
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Got sent the following announcement that ought to be of interest to people here.

Trinity’s Long Room Hub is hosting an exhibition by New York University’s Glucksman Ireland House, Labour and Dignity – James Connolly in America.

The exhibition explores the time that James Connolly, one of Ireland’s
national icons, spent in the United States where he witnessed the successes
and failures of labor radicalism and unionization, and of working class
conditions resulting from unregulated corporate expansion.

Despite major advances made by Irish labor activists in the 19th century,
Connolly found that employers still had the advantage when he arrived in
America in 1902. Over the next eight years, he was among an influential
second generation of Irish American leaders in the United States who
rallied immigrants from all over Europe to press for the dignity of labor.
Turning homeward in 1910, he insisted that the fight for Irish nationalism
was inseparable from the battle for the rights of all workers, in factories
as well as on farms.

Connolly’s experiences in the US influenced his actions during the Dublin
Lockout of 1913, which was part of a larger transatlantic effort to secure
the rights of the working class in the years before World War I.

The ‘Labor & Dignity’ exhibition is Glucksman Ireland House’s first
contribution to Ireland’s Decade of Commemorations, which was announced in
2012 by the Taoiseach, Mr. Enda Kenny. It is also part of a year-long
series of special academic initiatives to mark the twentieth anniversary of
Glucksman Ireland House, established as the Center for Irish and Irish
American Studies at New York University in 1993.

Professor Marion R. Casey, a faculty member at Glucksman Ireland House, and
Daphne Dyer Wolf, a PhD candidate in History and Culture at Drew
University, curated the exhibition, which was designed by Hilary J. Sweeney.

*The Trinity Long Room Hub will host the exhibition until February 2014. It
is free and open to the public between 9am and 6pm Monday to Friday.

The exhibition brochure can be downloaded here

RTÉ’s 1976 documentary on Irish involvement in the Spanish Civil War December 5, 2013

Posted by irishelectionliterature in History, Irish History.

The description is as follows…

RTÉ’s 1976 documentary on Irish involvement in the Spanish Civil War (Spanish Anti-Fascist War, 1936-1939). Presented and produced by Cathal O’Shannon.
Features contributions from Irishmen who fought for the International Brigades on the Republican side and those who travelled with Blueshirt Eoin O’Duffy’s Irish Brigade to support Franco and fascism.
Documentary title inspired by poet Charlie Donnelly, who remarked that ‘even the olives are bleeding’ shortly before he died fighting for the Republic at the Battle of Jarama in 1938.
Includes interviews with my grandfather Michael O’Riordan as well as many of his great comrades, including Bob Doyle.

A childhood in poverty in the 1950s, 19th century British democracy and a piece of WorldbyStorm family history… August 5, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, History, The Left.

I’d meant to post this up quite a while back, but events got in the way. Anyhow, the Guardian review had a number of book reviews which touch on concerns here I think.

I have to admit I’m intrigued by this memoir by Alan Johnson, serviceably Blairite Minister in the 2000s, but one of the few who due to his clear working class antecedents stood out in that glum line of mediocrity – who weeps for Alan Milburn, who indeed?

Anyhow Peter Wilby’s review is fascinating noting that:

Johnson’s track record may be that of a loyal Blairite, but he is a rare example, and perhaps the last example, of a leading politician who was born into the working class – perhaps even what we would now call the underclass – and stayed in it or close to it, first as a postal worker, then as a full-time official for the postal (later communication) workers’ union.

And there’s much more, but a lot of food for thought on the way:

As Johnson points out, benefits in the 1950s “welfare state” (his quote marks) were administered through the head of household who, until Lily managed to track him down and organise a divorce, was still technically her husband. Lily supported herself and her two children, barely at subsistence levels, from a medley of part-time jobs, mostly serving in shops and cafés and domestic cleaning. She was constantly in debt, sending her children to shops to get food and other essentials on credit. The electricity, to which the family wasn’t even connected until 1956, was frequently cut off. The main supply of coal was lumps spilled in the street during deliveries. Clothes were always second-hand, or gifts from Lily’s employers. There were just half-a dozen books, mostly handed out at a private club where Johnson’s father played the piano for an annual children’s party. Johnson was nearly always hungry: “I’ve never forgotten that emptiness and craving for food.”

Wilby notes that:

Many readers will want to know why, given this background, Johnson, though initially a Marxist and later a militant union general secretary, eventually moved to Labour’s Blairite right. The book has a lot about football, his youthful ambitions to be a pop musician (which came much closer to realisation than those of his patron Tony Blair) and his careful cultivation of Mod style. But Johnson makes no attempt to relate childhood experiences to his later political development, and rightly so. This is about two extraordinary women who waged a battle for survival, with neither time nor energy left for politics. Johnson has given them a handsome and eloquent tribute.

And let’s dig a bit deeper in the roots of those times, and ours come to think of it. For, in an excoriating review of Antonia Fraser’s book on the Great Reform Bill of 1832, John Barrell points up a few home truths:

Two hundred years ago the world’s “oldest democracy”, as Margaret Thatcher liked to call it, was staggeringly undemocratic. The total electorate in England and Wales was a mere 366,000, about 11% of the total of adult males. Constituencies were so unequal in size that more than half the 513 MPs were returned by a grand total of 11,000 voters. Scotland, then a country of two million people, returned 45 MPs, chosen by a total electorate of less than 3,000. More than half of all supposed representatives of the people, in the Commons, were put there by members of the House of Lords, who claimed constituencies as their personal property, to be bought and sold at will. There was a yawning north-south divide: Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester and Birmingham had no representatives, while 21 little towns in Cornwall returned two members each, and the counties along the south coast, with 15% of the population of England, returned a third of all English MPs.

There’s more. Much much more. No secret ballot there:

The secret ballot, according to apologists for this system, would have been inimical to the “manly spirit” of the British people – though, as the eloquent radical Henry Hunt pointed out, in gentleman’s clubs no other system of election would have been tolerated. This was the constitution, palpably chaotic and corrupt, that some defended as “the perfection of human reason”. Two years before the “great” Reform Act of 1832, the Duke of Wellington, the Tory prime minister, declared that the state of the representation of the people had been designed by providence: it “could not be improved”; it had, because it deserved to have, “the full and entire confidence of the country”.

And when did the secret ballot finally appear? 1872. And women’s suffrage, well 1918, to an extent. But only in 1928 was the franchise extended to all eligible women over 21 years of age.

And that family history?

Recently the English branch of the WorldbyStorm family discovered an interesting anomaly in the historical record. This only came to light when it appeared that one member of the family, a woman, had been married twice, first to one man and then subsequently to another man, though there was no record of what had happened to the first man. Or not initially (indeed one theory was bigamy – and why not?).

But then someone did a check of legal records and it became apparent that the first man, a great great great grandfather was transported to Australia in 1851 as a criminal (apparently for stealing a chicken).

I looked up the record on convictrecords.com.au. He was sentenced to 7 years, arrived in May 1852 in Van Diemen’s Land/Tasmania. It’s kind of strange to see that history online. Very strange indeed. One is, in one way, closer to that history. But in another it merely opens up questions that may never be answered. Nothing is known, as of yet, about what sort of life he had – if any – there. My own knowledge of that period of British history is poor and of the transports to Australia next to nothing. Though it would appear he was, in many respects, desperately unlucky given that transportation to Van Diemen’s Land/Tasmania ended two years later. Obviously he never returned home, and wife and child had to exist as best they could in those circumstances.

And it gives an indication of the times, and their casual brutality, a brutality reflected in the political and social systems themselves both then and after.


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