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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.

…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.

More on that state visit… April 10, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Irish History, Irish Politics.

…a curious tone I thought to this piece from Mary Warnock in the Guardian this morning in relation to the attendance by Martin McGuinness at a state lunch. It’s something about the language, a sort of detachment that perhaps characterises the level of engagement on the part of many English (and/or British) in relation to matters relating to Northern Ireland. And that can manifest as an oddly – or perhaps not – partial view of matters. Take for example the following:

Of course, we cannot overlook the horrors of the Orange marches, nor the continuing hatred between Catholics and Protestants.

I know what she’s getting at when she says ‘horrors’ but that simultaneously seems to exaggerate and diminish the broader dynamics which they are representative of. Or what of the following where we are treated to an old chestnut – old, but no truer about the Irish than any other people:

Though people sometimes talk as if the Troubles began in the 1970s, this is far from true. They were centuries old; and the Irish have extraordinarily long memories. (I did not live for nearly 50 years with an atheist but fanatically Protestant Ulsterman without becoming aware of this.)

Here’s an interesting thesis… March 10, 2014

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

Reactions in the West of Ireland to political change in Northern Ireland, 1968-1982. (MA: NUI Galway, 2013) by Gerard Madden. A genuinely innovative perspective on the conflict which is well worth reading in full – and a good healthy Bibliography too! Thanks to the person who sent the link and thanks to Gerard too.

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

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


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’’.


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