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Those Easter Rising Commemorations? October 19, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History.

It appears that they have been put on the long finger by the government for:

Dr Maurice Manning said the expert advisory group had been impatient for a while about the failure to bring forward a blueprint for marking the centenary of the Easter Rising which occurs in just 18 months time. “It is time for things to happen,” he said.
Historian Professor Diarmaid Ferriter, who is also on the committee, wrote in his Irish Times column yesterday about complaints from relatives of the 1916 combatants who said they were being kept in the dark about plans for the Rising centenary.

This, in a way, is no surprise. There’s been a remarkable hesitancy – remarkable, if not entirely unexpected, about all these matters. Part of that is, as the piece, notes funding, part of it is – one suspects – political – the question being who will oversee these events come the time. If this government does last out its term it could just about be in pole position to take the lead, if not, well, who knows where we will stand. So perhaps there’s a wish to try to constrain them in some way – perhaps to, as it were, depoliticise them, as best as is possible in advance. Whether that is tenable is open to question.

But being involved in an institution with a tangential link to this it seems to me that there’s a broad range of events and suchlike already in motion whatever about the more/most official manifestations of commemoration, and which may – in the long run, have a greater impact. It’s certainly generating enormous interest and a sense that ‘everyone’ on the cultural/historical spectrum intends to link in in some way to the overall commemoration process.

Cork Volunteers’ Pipe Band No. 2 in Series September 26, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, Uncategorized.
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Many thanks to Rebel Cork’s Fighting Story for allowing us to reblog this.
“No.2 in Centenary Year Series of remembering our Band with pride” By Jim Lane.



















Ireland and independence September 21, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History.
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Useful piece on Vincent Browne on TV3 with a range of guests including some not unknown in this parish discussing Irish record as an independent state in the context of Scotland’s bid for independence. Got to say the panellists gave Browne a real run for his money. Refreshing.

A seminar on Contemporary Irish History some might be interested in… September 20, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History.
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…many thanks to the person who forwarded this…

Dear all,
Just to let you know that the first seminar of the new term will take place on Wednesday September 24th with a paper by Tim Pat Coogan.

The title of his paper is as follows: What is wrong with Irish historians?

The seminar will take place at 4.00p.m. in the Neill Hoey Seminar Room, Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute, TCD.

Please find attached a full list of the seminars for this term.

Centre for Contemporary Irish History
Trinity College Dublin

Prime Time debate on Home Rule September 18, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History.
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…can be found here.

Bruton, Myers, O’Cuiv and Michael McDowell. Oh yes.

Obfuscation from the off, but McDowell playing a perhaps an unexpected and remarkably tenacious role in combating a lot of the nonsense. Good for him. Myers has a host of contradictory opinions to display – not least his line on how those who were killed in 1916 had no influence on affairs while waving away the lack of influence the Irish had in relation to the strategic direction of Britain during the First World War or before or after under the then existing set up or indeed under Home Rule had it been introduced. It’s bizarre too to hear Bruton talking about the lives that would have been saved had there been no 1916. But no recognition of deaths of Irish in World War One. It’s as if death only exists where men are killed when killed by Irish but when killed by the British (or at their behest) it doesn’t actually count. Strange. There’s more…

Commemoration Wars – and what of Unionism? September 2, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, Irish Politics.
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The Phoenix makes a most interesting point in regard to the Commemoration Wars that hadn’t struck me fully. It notes that far from John Bruton’s herculean efforts to see Redmond and the 1914 Home Rule Act ‘commemorated’ being welcomed by Unionists, it is – naturally enough, once one considers it – entirely anathema to them.

Or as the Phoenix puts it:

Did no one tell him Ulster Unionists were agin Home Rule?

For Home Rule was, from their perspective, the wedge from which all else follows. Their implacable antagonism wasn’t to Republicanism in 1913 onwards, because that was so utterly far-fetched as an outcome as to be near enough pointless to rail against. It was instead against the rather insipid level of home rule that London was prepared to acquiesce to for the island (and even then only grudgingly).

Home Rule, then, as it were, is the original sin, and while all else from then on compounds it, it does not overshadow it.

But in a way this is a perfect example of how the complexities of the history, then and now, serve to undercut assumptions. Bruton has often implicitly appeared to suggest that somehow recognising the parliamentary struggle of Redmond and the IPP would be a good thing because that struggle had it borne fruit would have allowed for a more pacific outcome on the island and ultimately the scope for a greater degree of reconciliation North and South. But as the Phoenix notes, that is to almost entirely misunderstand the socio-political dynamic at work.For Unionists Home Rule wasn’t simply an alternative political approach, it was an existential threat.

That Bruton cannot see this, so bound up he seems to be in the process of British democracy, such as it was (and see other posts on this topic on this site for more on that), and the parliamentary area in particular, is telling.

Even that must seem a mockery to Unionism, because after all Redmond’s explicit purpose was to shift much of the focus from Westminster to Dublin, even within Empire, and in so doing use Westminster to undermine the Union.

Small wonder Unionists would want nothing to do with any such commemoration. Fascinating that that fairly significant problem wouldn’t be appreciated.

Though that’s not the totality of the issue, because much of this, as we know is about more contemporary concerns, that being Republicanism. As the Phoenix also notes, there are other reasons why one might seek to point to that particular aspect of the history, and on the part of the government…

Including the British and Ulster Unionists in all commemorations and discomfiting Sinn Féin seems to be the objective.

But that may not be quite as discomfiting as it may at first appear. After all, SF has leapfrogged into a position where it is the primary voice of nationalism in the North and has significant representation in the South. They too are invited to these feasts, as it were – discomfited or not, and that is token too as to how matters have changed.

But then – returning to Bruton – this seems to me to be of a piece with many of a similar ilk to Bruton who simply do not appear to grasp what Unionism is and is not. They seem to believe that because Unionists were – in many respects ironically – to accept a form of Home Rule in Northern Ireland with Stormont that they therefore somehow are closer as a political tradition to Home Rule, the IIP, etc. Anything but. They were mortal enemies of same, and were willing to countenance an open rupture with the British state to forestall the eventuality that it might succeed.

That they did accept Stormont, and indeed come to more than tolerate it was as much due to necessity within circumstances as anything else. But it’s worth noting that armed confrontation of sorts on the island in the 1910s long pre-existed 1916 and even in the absence of 1916 and the push towards advanced nationalism would have continued to exist.

About William Thompson August 29, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, The Left.
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Interesting piece by Fintan Lane in Irish Historical Studies, no.154 entitled William Thompson, bankruptcy and the west Cork estate, 1808–34. The first paragraph – quoted below – outlines William Thomson’s legacy. Well worth a read if you can get it…

Historians of socialist thought have rated the Irish political philosopher and radical economist William Thompson (1778–1833) as the most influential theorist to emerge from the Owenite movement in early nineteenth-century Britain.1 Indeed, Gregory Claeys has judged him to be that movement’s ‘most analytical and original thinker … and a writer whose subsequent influence upon the history of socialist economic thought has been long established’.2 Furthermore, stressing Thompson’s democratic values, Claeys insists that the Irishman ‘may rightfully be considered the founder of a more traditionally republican form of British democratic socialism’.3 While Robert Owen is remembered for his ambitious co-operative experiments, he was not a theoretical or deeply reflective writer and his intellectual legacy was minimal. The Cork born Thompson, on the other hand, wrote assiduously on the theory and practice of early socialism, reputedly influenced Karl Marx and became a key figure in the history of feminism; nonetheless, our knowledge of this important Irish intellectual remains deficient.

Redmond redux August 21, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in 1913, Culture, Irish History, The Left.

So much to think about in relation to this issue. According to the Phoenix there are those within Fine Gael itself who are concerned and not best pleased by the former Taoiseach’s solo run on the issue of a commemoration for Redmond. And why would they because they provide a most unwelcome mood music to this decade of remembrance. And inconvenient too given the government’s attempts to chart a course between the various constituencies it seems to feel it must satisfy.

This weekend we saw the unusual sight of Ronan Fanning taking John Bruton to task over the issue in the pages of the Irish Times, and last week we saw Bruton attempting to explain away why Redmond’s actions post-the Larne gun-running of April 1914 – given that Dr Conor Mulvagh described Redmond as “a gun-runner, a back-room dealer and the leader of a private army” on foot of those actions – were explicable. Explicable because they were, according to Bruton set “against the background of certain activities by our brethren north of what is now the Border”. Very good, but implicit to his argument(s) on this issue is that the same events impacting on those who would later provide the core of the 1916 Rising gave rise to actions that were inexplicable. But if such a staunch parliamentarian as Redmond could be swayed to support political militarisation, which is in effect were what he oversaw to a greater or lesser degree, what would those who weren’t such staunch parliamentarians be swayed to do?

The answer to that is the course of Irish history across that decade or two. Still, one has to wonder whether that question was asked at the summer school these exchanges took place at.

It is all of a piece with the response to the stamp commemorating Redmond here, which – inconveniently for some, shows Redmond as a recruiter for the British Army. I’m genuinely amazed at how Bruton sought to minimise the import of that stamp, and how Stephen Collins could mistake it for a parody put about by Redmond’s political opponents. It was, of course, no such thing. But perhaps I shouldn’t be in light of the comments on the gun-running for this is – surely – a perfect example of that dynamic in politics where everything those one supports can be explained away while everything those one opposes is cast in the worst possible light, and in addition when problematic evidence appears it is simply ignored.

Meanwhile, and on the same topic, we have this fascinating further contribution from Stephen Collins which attempts to provide an explanation of sorts for John Bruton’s thoughts on Redmond, and simultaneously provide another for his comments on social welfare and pensions from a dinner in 2013.

Collins posits this in relation to the first:

Bruton’s core point is that if commemorations are about drawing relevant lessons from the work of past generations, then the remarkable exercise of parliamentary leverage that achieved home rule may have greater relevance to today’s generation of democrats than does the blood sacrifice of Pearse and Connolly

That doesn’t, it has to be said, convince me. At best Redmond was a problematic democrat – one who was deeply opposed to women’s suffrage, and along with many Home Rulers appears to have attempted to ignore the events of 1913. Add to that the small but entirely salient fact that he did not seek Irish independence. There’s simply no getting around the fact that his vision was of an Ireland comfortably positioned within the British Empire. That Bruton and Collins appear unable to engage with this point is telling, is it not? It is as if the goal of the movements, and they were plural, and perhaps multiple, at that time, is completely ignored in regard of the process they supposedly bypassed. The process is democracy? Again, given the nature of the British democracy at that point that raises all manner of contradictions and problems.

If Redmond were committed to independence, if all that he had done was predicated on that, well, that might be a different matter. But he simply did not share the vision of an independent Irish Republic.

Yet this is ignored and we are offered counterfactuals where Irish independence was achieved on foot of Home Rule at some point, who knows when? Even that is arguable. There is a counter argument that the fact of even partial Irish independence in the 1920s had a significant effect on how matters developed subsequently in the Empire. Perhaps Ireland might have been locked in to Britain through Home Rule for many decades, too close to the centre to break free, but always seeking to. Can I make a case for a low level war in a Home Rule state by advanced nationalists who recognise the limits of that state, or worse again the potential for cross border strife – for Bruton himself admits that there would be partition, and perhaps from either side. I sure can. Imagine a sort of 1969 to 1994 played out across the 20s and 30s? Or ethnic cleansing from the North? Or…

That’s the thing with counterfactuals, it’s not difficult to envisage better or worse outcomes than reality. Now it’s one thing to muse on them here on this site, but it’s another entirely to be attempting to direct public policy on foot of them at state level.

And as ever that past is filtered through another segment of the past, that of the late 1960s and onwards…

That is certainly a point worth considering, particularly as dissident republicans plot violence and mayhem in the name of the 32-county republic envisaged by the 1916 leaders, despite the overwhelming endorsement of the Belfast Agreement and its core principle of consent by the majority of people on this island.

But this state exists as the out workings of the struggle for that 32-county republic envisaged by the 1916 leaders, not the struggle for Home Rule which now appears as an effective cul-de-sac. No less an authority than Ronan Fanning points to the fact that Home Rule, even as Redmond envisaged it, was never on offer from the British state as a realistic prospect. And it is worth noting that the GFA/BA dispensation specifically allows for a 32-county republic. That is in no way invalidated by dissident republicans. Not in the slightest.

Still, it’s the latest twist, that dinner in New York (a ‘social function’ as Collins rather delicately puts it) held by legal firm Matheson in his honour that is so revealing.

His critics got more ammunition to attack the former taoiseach with the release of a tape recording contain comments he made at a social function in New York last year. In the course of a discussion he raised the issue of how the European social model, its welfare entitlements and pensions were going to be funded into the future as the continent tried to compete with the rising power of China and other developing countries.
There was certainly something off-putting about a group of very wealthy business people being told the governments of the developed world would ultimately have to default on their commitments to their citizens. That, however, does not invalidate the nub of the argument.


Asking questions about the ability of the developed world to fund its spending commitments over the coming decades is surely relevant and necessary to prod the political system into long-term planning.

Wait a second. That wasn’t a ‘discussion’ where he ‘raised the issue’ or ‘asked questions about the ability to fund…’. To determine what he did say let’s return to Gene Kerrigan’s original piece where he notes that Bruton said:

Mr Bruton predicted, “We’re still going to be well off, but other people are going to get richer, and we’re going to be not getting rich as fast.”
And that, he said, “requires a whole lot of difficult adjustments”. American social insurance schemes, “Medicare and Medicaid and social security”, he said, “are completely unaffordable. And will not be afforded. And will not be deliverable. These promises will be broken here in the US. The same is going to happen in Europe.”
He said, “it’s going to happen — those promises are going to be broken.” He emphasised: “And they have to be broken. Because they can’t be afforded.”

There is no question formulated by Bruton. Anything but. This is no raising of issues – those aren’t ‘may not be’s’ but ‘can’t be’s’. Bruton has self-evidently already determined in his own mind what will occur.

Perhaps aware of this difference between what he suggests Bruton is saying and what Bruton actually says Collins here takes a step towards suggesting that that outcome of a society with social protections stripped away is an inevitability, albeit he still couches it as a ‘question’.

Bruton’s critics have not come up with a coherent response to his basic question and instead highlighted that he is currently very well paid as chairman of the International Financial Services Centre in Dublin and draws a handsome pension as a former taoiseach. That is all true, but has nothing to do with the case he is making.

Well, perhaps in a world where one is a cheerleader for lower taxation and lower state expenditure. But that brutish, short and nasty outcome is one that many of us resile against – and Collins well knows the arguments that can be put against it. I guess I could say that it is a bit disturbing to see someone seemingly argue that the withering of even fairly low level state provision of pensions and welfare to little or nothing – nothing, actually, if one takes Bruton at his word, is regarded with such equanimity. But there you have it.

He finishes with this:

Both in office and out of it, Bruton has made a habit of speaking his mind. The latest bout of venom directed at him shows why so many Irish politicians often keep their true opinions to themselves. Playing the “cute hoor” is still the safest option in Irish public life.


A sort of 70’s quiz – 2 August 18, 2014

Posted by guestposter in Irish History, Irish Politics, The Left.

Many thanks to Brian Hanley for sending this follow up to his earlier quiz on the 1970s. Very much appreciated. Answers later in the week.

1) Which TD was nicknamed ‘Bogside Billy’ after he visited nationalist areas of Derry and Belfast in August 1969?

2) How many workers in the Republic of Ireland were members of British-based trade unions in 1978? (Nearest estimate)

3) Linfield supporters clashed with fans of which League of Ireland team at Dalymount Park in May 1971? (Bonus: name the competition)

4) Five-time All Ireland winner with Kerry, Captain Joe Keohane, stood as a candidate for which party in the 1973 general election?

5) What was the president of the GAA referring to during August 1978 when he claimed that ‘we have had only rare occasions when such incidents as we saw yesterday have occurred. Unfortunately, they have always been associated with occasions when teams from the North of Ireland have played here. I suppose it is reasonable to presume that because of the troubles in the North, actions of this type have come to the fore.’

6) To what event did RTE devote several hours of live-coverage in November 1973?

7) Which left-wing periodical argued in June 1974 that the Ulster Workers Council strike had ‘flushed a lot of things out. They flushed every reactionary and racialist sentiment from the bottom of the scummy hearts of Southern politicians and journalists (including) the editor of the Irish Times, that cut-price Protestant lap-dog…They are squealing because their mean and discreditible ‘national aspirations’ have been heavily stamped on by the Ulster Protestant community.’

8) What chart position did the 1970 England World Cup’s squad’s song ‘Back Home’ reach in the Republic of Ireland?

9) What was Garda sergeant Martin Hogan suspended from the force for doing in February 1976?

10) Former Minister for Justice Patrick Cooney successfully sued which newspaper for alleging that he tolerated Garda ill-treatment of suspects during the 1973-77 Coalition?

That John Redmond World War One recruiting poster August 14, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, Irish Politics.


I’m a bit puzzled by this report in today’s Irish Times which notes that Labour Party TD Eamonn Moloney has taken An Post to task…

Mr Maloney said today that An Post was wrong to produce a stamp commemorating Redmond and should immediately withdraw it.

“It is indeed appropriate to remember and commemorate the thousands of Irish boys and men who were slaughtered during World War One, but it is wrong for An Post to commemorate a politician who promoted, recruited and shamed Irishmen into killing for Great Britain.

Fair enough, but that’s not what puzzles me (though why didn’t he raise his objections earlier?).

It’s this:

Former Fine Gael Taoiseach John Bruton has already criticised An Post for producing a stamp featuring a satirical cartoon of Redmond on a mock First World War recruitment poster.

It could be that that’s not quite how Bruton put it, for later in the piece he is quoted as saying:

Speaking at the Parnell summer school Mr Bruton described the stamp as unflattering and said that Redmond should get proper recognition for his achievement in getting the Home Rule Bill passed.

“I would have thought that if we want to look at the passage of 100 years of Home Rule next month something more constructive could have been found,” said Mr Bruton.

Unflattering it may be, though why Bruton would see it as such escapes me – is he suggesting that Redmond didn’t like it himself or disavowed it? But it does indeed appear to be the genuine article… a British Army recruiting poster.


Is it that on foot of Bruton’s comments it seems unthinkable to those who wrote the IT piece that it could be the genuine article? And by the by, back in June the IT was well aware that this was a legitimate recruiting poster:

Some 10,000 copies of the poster were made and issued nationwide by the Central Council for the Organisation of Recruiting in Ireland in September 1915. The design was inspired by the 1914 “Your Country Needs You” recruitment poster featuring Lord Kitchener.

The fact is that this isn’t a satirical cartoon any more than it is a mock poster, it’s a fairly typical example of vernacular illustrative/cartoon imagery of the period (1900s onward). It would make no sense at all as a recruiting poster for it to be intended (or received) as a slight on the man.

By way of comparison here is the Kitchener poster, which is admittedly more finished.


Ironically the confusion may arise because the poster was parodied by Republicans, which as the IT in June reported:

…showed Irish skeletons, representing the Irish dead in the war, putting their hands up to recruit.

But even so, that’s no excuse. An Sionnach Fionn has more posters (including the parody) here.


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