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The Plough and the Stars – Sean O’Casey Theater – East Wall, 5th – 7th March March 4, 2014

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

The Inquiry – a docu-drama on Jim Larkin and William Martin Murphy’s meeting – The Lighthouse Cinema, this Saturday February 20, 2014

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

A very welcome guest post from Turlough Kelly, screenwriter of the film The Inquiry which as it says here deals with an event on:

…29 September 1913 [when] trade unionist Jim Larkin and industrial magnate William Martin Murphy came face to face for the first time in an attempt to bring an end to the Dublin Lockout. The Lockout, in which employers locked out workers belonging to (or refusing to pledge not to join) the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, had already been in effect for several weeks, sparking a series of demonstrations brutally suppressed by police and leaving thousands of families around the capital in desperate poverty and close to starvation.

Bosco Hogan (In the Name of the Father) is Murphy and Stephen Murray plays the impassioned firebrand Larkin in The Inquiry, a docu-drama that brings to life the dramatic events of that encounter, when the two most notorious figures in Irish public life hurled accusations at one another in front of the international press. Turlough Kelly’s script draws on British Parliamentary reports and contemporary newspapers to provide a gripping account of events, going behind the scenes at the meeting to explore the tensions within both camps.

Despite being hailed as a paragon of numerous and contradictory ideals for much of 2013, James Larkin’s enigma remains largely intact. He has been re-appraised, re-evaluated and subjected to a year-long psychohistorical autopsy, all to no avail. The secret behind his prodigious public charisma remains embedded in the realm of historical hearsay and folk memory.

It is an extraordinary, freakish fact that the most celebrated orator in Irish history, who lived well into the era of radio broadcasting and remained politically active until his death, bequeathed not a single recording of his voice to posterity. De Valera’s watery warble echoes eerily down the decades, seemingly suspended between rural Limerick and some drafty Jesuit afterlife, but Larkin will remain forever mute.

At 12.30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, Stephen Murray will give full-blooded Liverpudlian voice (itself a screen first) to Larkin in The Inquiry, a feature-length dramatisation of the Askwith Inquiry into the events of the 1913 Lockout (Light House cinema, Smithfield, tickets from http://www.jdiff.com/index.php/festival-2014/movie/the_inquiry ).

The tribunal, chaired by Board of Trade troubleshooter Sir George Askwith (played by Brian de Salvo) in Dublin Castle, brought Larkin face-to-face with William Martin Murphy for the first time.

Murray, who threatens the boundaries of the frame with his restless physicality, is perhaps the most believable Larkin ever beamed from a projector. Unlike James Connolly (here portrayed superbly by Patrick O’Donnell), Larkin was not steeped in Marxist method and analysis. He regarded capitalism, first and foremost, as an inexcusable moral obscenity. It’s this searing sense of injured indignation which Murray conveys powerfully in Larkin’s impassioned final address to the tribunal.

William Martin Murphy’s reputation has, no less than Larkin’s, undergone a major reappraisal over recent years. A veritable academic cottage industry has arisen around his rehabilitation as a moderniser and pioneering entrepreneur. It’s easy to see why; here was a man who used his stranglehold over the mass media to promote an agenda of wage-suppression, privatisation and a strictly hierarchical model of civic nationalism, as well as profiting lavishly from investments in the third world.

To leave Murphy’s reputation in the gutter to which it had been consigned was to undermine the very basis on which the modern Irish state rests. Indeed, the parallels between Murphy and his contemporary equivalents are almost too obvious, with one singular difference; Murphy’s sincere strategic tolerance for the concept of trade unionism (shorn of Larkinite excess).

In The Inquiry, screen and stage veteran Bosco Hogan imbues Murphy with the steadfast moral certainty he undoubtedly possessed. Gerry O’Brien (who featured on the other side of the Lockout in RTÉ’s classic TV adaptation of Strumpet City) is a fiendishly convincing Timothy Healy KC, Murphy’s legal representative and fellow Bantry Boy. The cross-examination of Murphy by Larkin is, as performed by Hogan and Murray, fraught with tension and a highlight of the film.

It’s an encounter which, like the Askwith Inquiry itself, has been unjustly relegated to the status of sideshow, a tepid entr’acte amidst the tumult of the Lockout. That it was so much more owed everything to Larkin’s remorseless clarity of purpose; Larkin and Murphy both understood, perhaps more clearly than any other political actors of their time, that the soul of a nascent nation was up for grabs in Dublin.

Both saw the Lockout as the crucible in which the political character of the coming state (whatever its constitutional identity) would be forged. Larkin’s strategy in Dublin Castle, once he had wrested control of the union brief from TUC official Harry Gosling, was to place Irish capitalism in the dock and demand that it account for its actions. It was a coup de main which has never been repeated.

The Inquiry, a co-production between Dublin Community Televison and Anú, could not have been produced without the good will and forbearance of a magnificent cast and crew, an effort marshalled by director Brian Gray, who also worked tirelessly to make the film ready for the festival screen.

It would not have been possible to shoot an entire feature film in just three days without the (literal) good offices of the TEEU, whose Gardiner Row HQ served as the interior of Dublin Castle, and the Stakhanovite behind-the-scenes efforts of Thom McDermott (producer), John Breslin (location manager/editor), Ciarán Moore (executive producer) and Zara Starr (assistant director).

Booking information: http://www.jdiff.com/index.php/festival-2014/movie/the_inquiry

What if: John A. Costello had not declared the Republic in 1948? January 7, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, The Left.

Here’s a question that has long intrigued me, and I’m not expecting an answer any time soon. But that said it is possible to work through some of the implications. Did Costello on his famous visit to Canada in September 1948 declare the Republic too soon? It’s interesting to read what Joe Lee in “Ireland 1912-1985” has to say about this particular venture:

There may have been a number of motives for Costello’s decision. He himself disliked the characteristic ambiguity of de Valera’s External Relations Act of 1936, which left Ireland effectively a Republic in her internal affairs, while retaining the king as a symbolic sleeping partner in external relations… but a passion for logical consistency rarely suffice sot explain political decisions, even by a part-time politician like Costello. The ‘Republic’ could serve several purposes for FG. It stole Fianna Fáil’s Sunday suit of constitutional clothes. Who were the real republicans now? By behaving in a manner so out of character with the performance of the party for more than a decade, it helped retrieve FG’s fading image as a serious party concerned with the real business of politics, power.

He continues:

The declaration… also… pre-empted the possible embarrassment of a threatened private ‘Republic’ bill by independent TD, Peadar Cowna, and reinforced by Costello’s subsequent decision to introduce the relevant bill himself rather than leave it to his Minster for External Affairs, also had the advantage of stealing MacBride’s thunder. Costello himself justified the decision on the grounds that it would take the gun out of politics.

Lee also notes that at the same time Ireland left the Commonwealth. That is another question again – and perhaps an unrelated one in the context of the potential effects or otherwise of the declaration of the Republic (though Lee notes that ‘it seems doubtful on the whole if Irish absence made much difference to either Ireland or the Commonwealth… Canada, Australia and New Zealand retained benign links with Ireland. Britain continued to treat Irish immigrants as Commonwealth citizens and to offer a special relationship to the Irish economy’).

But it raises many many questions. What effect did that have on the conflict(s) that erupted on the Border and in the North in subsequent decades? What was the effect on partition? Were there implications for the left above and beyond those in relation to the North. And so on.

One thought that struck me in this is that in a way Kenny’s tilt at the Seanad was a sort of faint echo of Costello’s approach in relation to the Republic, albeit much less cleverly done – a seemingly big ticket event that would shake up Irish politics.

By the way, Lee notes that the declaration ‘had at least the merit of diverting attention from Costello’s reassurance to the bemused Canadians of ‘Ireland’s readiness to come to the assistance of Canada in the event of war with a communist power’’.

1914 – 2014: 100 years of the Starry Plough January 1, 2014

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


An event that shouldn’t go unnoticed today is the 100th anniversary of the Starry Plough, traditional symbol of Irish Republican Socialism. You’ll find it nestling at the top of this page in the header image towards the left and it is indeed drawn from the Starry Plough constellation. Originally unveiled as the symbol of the Irish Citizen’s Army, although in that iteration with the stars set on a green field, the more well-known ‘modern’ version is a product of the Republican Congress where the stars are more clearly stylised and set on a blue field.

The wiki entry references the fact that it was used at the funeral of Tony Gregory.

It’s a rather beautiful and quite unique in the sense that it is an indigenous symbol of Irish starry-ploughocialism.

More on the 1956-1962 Border Campaign December 30, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, Irish Politics.

Coincidental to discovering this educative site here – well, not so coincidental actually, I finally got around to reading Barry Flynn’s ‘Soldiers of Folly – The IRA Border Campaign 1956 −1962’ and it’s an interesting read. I noted in comments I’m not mad gone on the title, but it’s a comprehensive enough overview of the topic, though, as also noted in comments, Ó Bradaigh’s biography has a good overview too.

One interesting nugget which I had hitherto confused with Saor Uladh was the Laochra Uladh (Warriors of Ulster) splinter group, which was led by Brendan O’Boyle, an IRA man from the 1940s who as Bowyer Bell noted in The Secret Army ‘appeared to run a one-man bombing campaign’ and who died in 1955 when a bomb prematurely exploded in the car he was driving. According to some LU gave weapons to SU.

That Bowyer Bell link is fascinating because it mentions other groups, including an IRB, Arm na Saoirse which merged with the IRA (and as Bowyer Bell notes almost fantastically its members were unaware of the IRA before that, or perhaps not so fantastically), and the Irish National Brotherhood/Irish Volunteers which is described as ‘private and somewhat violent youth movement absorbed into na Fianna Éireann’. These apparently were all Dublin based. It does suggest a ferment of activity in the years running up to the campaign.

It’s interesting to consider what were the roots of that activity in the 1940s, a period when the IRA and Republicans were being pushed back by the state in Ireland. One other thought that strikes me is whether in some ways the anti-partitionism of Ailtirí na hAiséirghe during the 1940s (and I don’t mean that in a facile far-right=SF or the IRA way, but rather that AnahA’s anti-partitionism clearly struck a chord), and indeed the Anti-Partition Conference, were representative of a very broad anti-partition sentiment that ultimately saw expression in the Border Campaign?

Scoláire Staire – October Edition – Centenary of 1913 Lockout December 19, 2013

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

From Scoláire Staire, available for download here.

Please find the much delayed October edition of Scoláire Staire attached. As advertised it is our first “special edition” and focuses on labour and class history to mark the centenary of the 1913 Lockout.

I must apologise, not only to the readers, but also to the contributors who have been waiting patiently to see their work published. As always I hope you enjoy reading it and feel free to distribute it widely. We’ll see you again in 2014.

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.

Sean Heuston Society – Lecture on December 7th on the ICA at the National History Museum, Collins Barracks December 5, 2013

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


This Saturday, 7th December, the Sean Heuston Society are hosting a lecture on the formation and activities of the Irish Citizen Army.
This will take place at 1pm in the National History Museum, Collins Barracks.
This event is free of charge and non party political.
Kevin Morley, author of ‘A Descriptive History of the Irish Citizen Army’ will be main speaker.
Also we’ll have a descendant of Michael Mallin who’ll be talking about modern day revisionists who attempt to apply 21st century standards to men and women born in the 19th century.

Reviewing collusion November 27, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.

..Here’s a new blog with a most interesting approach to the history of the conflict, not least a review of the new book on collusion by Anne Cadwallader, ‘Lethal Allies’.

To which there is this response:

In a review of Paul Larkin’s A Very British Jihad: Collusion, conspiracy and cover-up in Northern Ireland, Queen’s University academic Adrian Guelke argued that many of the author’s claims regarding allegations of collusion were “open to argument, to put the matter mildly” (Fortnight, May 2004). Indeed, he cites one of the cases highlighted by Larkin – when Guelke himself was shot by the UDA – and states “that my case hardly demonstrates the intimate level of collusion that he wishes to suggest existed among the Loyalists, elements of the security forces and the apartheid regime.” Ultimately, Guelke contends that much of Larkin’s work was made up of “foolish innuendo[es] … about a number of prominent figures in this society”; easily dismissible and easily dismissed.

Anne Cadwallader’s Lethal Allies also takes on the controversial issue of collusion in Ireland; her work isn’t so easily dismissible or dismissed. Still, in a lengthy review of her newly published book, Arkiv claims that but for the inclusion of HET reports, “there would be little to distinguish … [it] from a number of others that have claimed to uncover an over-arching British state policy to use counter-insurgency tactics … to deal with the IRA.” Here Arkiv mention Larkin’s A Very British Jihad. Yet Cadwallader never claims an over-arching British state policy per se. And, in fact, there is much more than HET reports which make this important and controversial work a cut above the rest.

From the onset, Cadwallader is explicit about the origins and remit of the project of which her book is the outcome. It is not – and is not intended as – a scholarly treatise on British state policy on the North, much to Arkiv’s disappointment. Lethal Allies covers nearly 120 different killings which took place mainly (though not exclusively) in what has been dubbed the “murder triangle” in Counties Armagh and Tyrone. These killings took place in the 1970s and Cadwallader convincingly documents how they were carried out by a particular “loyalist gang, and permutations of it, with tacit assistance from members of government forces” (p. 16). She does “not claim that every RUC officer or UDR soldier was collusive, or every loyalist was manipulated, or every judge or British cabinet minister mendacious” (p.16). Nevertheless, it is argued “that enough was known, or should have been known, by sufficient people in places of authority, to prevent many of the murders described” (p. 16).

While HET reports certainly play a major part in corroborating the author’s very serious allegations, so too does over 15 years of meticulous research. Lethal Allies is also based upon official government reports, on hundreds of hours of archival research at Kew, at PRONI, the Newspaper Library in Belfast and dozens of local libraries scattered across this island. It is based on years of back-and-forth correspondence between the Pat Finucane Centre and the PSNI (at various levels), the DPP, the Northern Ireland Courts Service, the Coroner’s Office, the Office of the Attorney General and Lord Chief Justice. It is based on countless meetings and correspondence between Justice for the Forgotten and Justice Barron, the Department of Justice and the Gardai Síochána in the Republic. Numerous interviews were carried out with victims, survivors, whistle-blowers, serving police officers, retired police officers, etc. Moreover, it includes damning ballistic reports which link many a “stolen” weapon to murder after murder after murder.

Arkiv acknowledge that “[t]he issues of collusion raised in the book are indeed profoundly serious ones” but deal very little with these issues (despite the fact that these issues comprise the bulk of Lethal Allies.) And unsurprisingly Arkiv make no reference to the “human side” of these multiple tragedies – the pain, humiliation, harassment, etc. suffered by those who lost their loved ones – this too is an important part of the book. Instead Cadwallader and the Pat Finucane Centre are taken to task for failing to recognize “the massive challenges faced by the security forces and the RUC in particular in the early to mid-1970s.” This is given as one of the main reasons why so many of the murders described may not have been properly investigated (evidence in the book often suggests otherwise.) The HET investigators do “note that applying the standards of contemporary best practice to the chaotic, pressurized and dangerous conditions of the Seventies is anachronistic and unfair” but it is the HET that “in report after report … goes on to criticize successive RUC enquiries” (pp. 260-261). Furthermore, while the author is accused of depicting arrest rates of “loyalist terrorists and rogue security force members [as an] unmitigated failure”, this is only partially true – a section of the book actually documents what happened to some of those arrested, what charges were filed and how the justice system then failed in its duties.

The review points out that “[m]uch is made of the murderous activities of the former member of the UDR Robert Jackson and the allegation that he worked as a hit-man for British Military Intelligence and the RUC.” The allegation is indeed made and it is based on far more than the word of Colin Wallace (perhaps the reviewer missed the whole discussion regarding Jackson and the Miami Showband killings – see pp. 103-108). Still, rather than focus on this allegation, emphasis is placed on the many opportunities the RUC had to arrest Jackson and many of his associates. What is more, it is argued that the evidence to effectively prosecute Jackson did exist – in fact it existed on a number of occasions – and this is pointed out time and time again. Why this did not happen, readers can decide for themselves.

Elsewhere Arkiv claim that Lethal Allies “resurrects the ‘Wilson Plot’ thesis of an MI5 conspiracy to overthrow the Labour Prime Minister”. In nearly 400 pages of text, the thesis is touched on in a matter of two or three sentences – not much of a resurrection. Arkiv also argues that “the logic” of the book results a number of “strange conclusions”. For example, the author’s views on the collusion supposedly lay “blame for the Kingsmill massacre … at the door of the British state” (Cadwallader clearly states that the IRA were responsible for the attack – something which the Republican Movement still refuses to do – and that it was “terrible and inexcusable”) (p. 158). It is even said that “Cadwallader and the PFC claim the IRA’s ‘Long War’ was a product of … British collusion”, yet the IRA’s ‘Long War’ strategy is never discussed in the book. What is said is, however, is that collusion simply prolongs conflict – indeed, “[t]he hard lessons learned in Armagh and Tyrone have a relevance as far away as Afghanistan, Iraq and other modern theatres of war” (pp. 372-373).

* * *

Hours after the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, the then Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave (FG) argued; “Everyone who has practised violence or preached violence or condoned violence must bear a share of responsibility for today’s outrage” (p. 221). The Dublin/Monaghan bombings remain the greatest loss of life in a single day of the Troubles but there was no national day of mourning and no government minister visited the injured or bereaved. The deadly attacks were carried out by UVF personnel (many of who were either former or serving members of the security forces) and serious allegations persist that other British security force members also played a part. Much of this was known in the immediate wake of the bombings yet Cosgrave and other Irish government officials quickly shifted the blame for the bombings onto republicans.

Arkiv regard Lethal Allies as “but the latest manifestation of a one-sided ‘blame the Brits’ syndrome.” As noted above, Arkiv say very little about the 120 murders documented in the book. These brutal killings were carried out by loyalists who were aided and abetted by state forces; oftentimes there was no distinction between the two. The book documents this. The British government was well aware of loyalist infiltration of the UDR and of the frequent arms raids on Army bases in the North. This too is well documented. The “overwhelming majority of those specifically targeted were people who were progressing economically, socially and politically – people with aspirations their parents could only have dreamed of” (p. 363). Only one of the murders covered in this book was of a republican activist. No over-arching British state policy is alleged here, but in each of these cases blame is “laid at the door of the British state” and rightly so. Would Arkiv rather shift the blame?

– Dr. F. Stuart Ross
Activist, academic and PFC board member

Note: Arkiv’s review ends by accusing Cadwallader of “ungenerously rubbish[ing] the HET’s role in dealing with the past” – not true. Until very recently, the Pat Finucane Centre has critically engaged with the HET on behalf of families since it started reviewing cases in 2006. As the book notes, however, “many families have been bitterly disappointed by HET Reports” and the Centre has always maintained that this avenue is a deeply flawed and imperfect way for families to begin to learn the truth regarding the death of a loved-one during the Troubles (p. 17). Nevertheless, Cadwallader has very openly and publicly praised the “small team of very diligent officers of huge integrity and courage” who investigated many of the Glennane gang killings”.


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