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Redmond redux August 21, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in 1913, Culture, Irish History, The Left.
1 comment so far

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.

And:

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.

Priceless.

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

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

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.
26 comments

68_cent_stamp-196x300

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.

john-redmond-british-army-recruitment-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.

large_WWI_3

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.

Mrs. T.M. Kettle and the Irish Nationalist Veterans Association boycott of the 1919 British victory parade in Dublin. July 7, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History.
4 comments

Brian Hanley notes that ‘Nationalist intellectual and former MP Tom Kettle was killed while serving with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers at the Somme in 1916. He is often quoted as an example of the Irish nationalist commitment to the British war effort in WW1. Less well known are the comments of his widow at this rally of the Irish Nationalist Veterans Association in July 1919. The INVA boycotted the official British victory parade in Dublin.’

INA-Article(15)

Sunday Independent Curious Statement of the Week June 8, 2014

Posted by guestposter in Irish History.
9 comments

Not much time, and Garibaldy is on leave – so any contributions gratefully accepted, but this from Eoghan Harris was a bit odd. In the course of remembering Sir John Gorman, famously a prominent Catholic Unionist, he notes that:

The 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings reminds me that I had the honour of conversing at length with one of its legendary heroes, Sir John Gorman, who died a few weeks ago. Coming from a well-off farming family in County Tipperary, Gorman was born, reared and remained a Roman Catholic all his life. Brought up in Northern Ireland he also remained that rarity, a Catholic moderate unionist, respected by all sides.

And:

During the Provo campaign Gorman was an active agent in the battle against terrorism. But when I met him in 1999 he was a warrior for peace. He strongly supported David Trimble’s struggle for a Yes vote in the referendum following the Good Friday Agreement and later became the much-loved Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
John Gorman spent his long life in the service of democracy and freedom, both in Normandy and Northern Ireland. To my mind he was a greater Irish patriot than any of the IRA gunmen who came out of Tipperary. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam uasal.

As noted in comments in the Sunday Independent below the piece by one person.

Surely  it would have been better to have left out sentence number 2 [in the paragraph quoted directly above] in the above tribute to John Gorman.  The man stands on his own two feet and his record.  Comparisons with people who participated in the War of Independence in Tipperary seems pointless considering John was not born then.  It opens a debate on further comparisons – Cork, Roscommon, Clare, Dublin ?

Peace After the Final Battle: Story of the Irish Revolution 1912-1924, Book launch May 4, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, Irish Politics.
2 comments

Wednesday, 7th of May.

John Dorney launch invitation copy

Pathé Archives April 17, 2014

Posted by doctorfive in Irish History.
2 comments

Pathé have put their entire Archive on youtube, or 85,000 clips at least. Lots to sift through but here are few from early on.

 

Out of sight, out of mind… April 17, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, Uncategorized, United States History.
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this piece on Irish Central by John Fay brings to light a gift from the United States of the battle flag of the Fighting 69th from the Civil War to the Irish people. And where is it?

Hanging in Leinster House, the building that hosts Ireland’s parliament, is the battle flag of the Fighting 69th from the American Civil War. The flag has hung in the building ever since President John F Kennedy unveiled it as a gift from the American people back in June 1963.

It makes a great wall-hanging. It’s very impressive. I saw it once years ago and, if I remember correctly, it hangs just at the bottom of a staircase. I’m not sure now because, well, I have only been able to see it once. And that’s the problem.

As Fay continues:

President Kennedy did not offer the flag to Ireland’s parliamentarians. He did not say:
“You elected officials are a cut above the common people of Ireland. So be sure to keep this flag where you can admire it regularly, but where few of the unwashed masses will ever feast their eyes upon it. After all, what is it to them that tens of thousands of their kin, their forefathers’ and their forefathers’ brothers fought, bled and died for the honor of that beautiful flag?”

Some useful thoughts on commemoration… April 15, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History.
42 comments

…quoted here from Diarmaid Ferriter who notes in passing that invitations to members of the British royal family have been issued without reference to the expert advisory group on the 1916 centenary and that:

He believed the presence of the royal family might give succour to those who believed the Rising was unnecessary, as the British government had committed to the introduction of home rule once the war was over. “I’m on the side of evidence. There was no evidence that Britain was prepared to settle its Irish question until it was forced to do it. We don’t need to abandon our critical faculties because of the warm haze after the Queen’s visit.”

That point above is one that should be made time and again. It doesn’t precluded the attendance of those current representatives of the British state but it is important to provide a degree of context.

More on remembering… “Reflections on Commemoration” April 10, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History.
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…many thanks to the person who forwarded this, an Address by Emily O’Reilly, Ombudsman at Irish Association meeting in 2012.

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