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A complex set of relationships on this island July 23, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Thanks to the friend of the CLR who sent this link from the NewsLetter.

A former DUP firebrand Assemblyman and Free Presbyterian minister has told how he wept when he heard that an IRA man had been shot dead by a paratrooper.

Writing in today’s News Letter, the Rev Ivan Foster recounts how when he was jailed with Ian Paisley half a century ago he struck up an unlikely relationship with Official IRA man Joe McCann.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… The two best lps the Bothy Band recorded and four they didn’t. January 23, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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A very welcome guest post this weekend from Anarchaeologist and if you scroll down to the end of the text there’s an opportunity to hear tracks from the Bothy Band tomorrow at the Dice Bar – details below… 

The Bothy Band 1975 opens with a bouzouki chord aggressively strummed for 3 bars. The chanter on set of uilleann pipes opens a drone from the fourth bar before picking up the tune on the sixth, at perhaps twice the speed it’s usually played. The tune’s then picked up in counterpoint on the bouzouki with a fiddle slightly higher in the mix. This is the Kesh Jig like you never heard it before. By the time the band hits the second tune in the set, Give Us a Drink of Water, all six cylinders are on fire. And then it stops, the Flower of the Flock is picked up on the flute and chanter on the next beat and the band cracks straight into the Famous Ballymote. And that’s just Track 1.

The impact the Bothies had on Irish traditional music is evident at any session you’ll go to today. The sets put together on their three studio albums for Mulligan Records are still played in the same sequences and have become part of the canon. It’s difficult though to appreciate how this music was fundamentally different from that which had passed before. Although tune sequencing and arrangements had been messed around with by Sean Ó Riada’s chamber-trad Ceoltóirí Chualann (later to become the Chieftains), and indeed Planxty a few years later, traditional dance music as played by the céilí bands was played strictly for dancing. Percussion was usually provided by a slightly out of tune piano vamping harmlessly away in the background. The tunes were played by all the musicians together with no variation at a leaden tempo. Soloing on the tune was frowned upon.

A recent interview in Rabble with Belfast flautist Harry Bradley recalls how ‘Gaelier-than-thou theocrats fucked up trad’. The Public Dance Halls Act of 1935 brought an end to the enduring practice of house and crossroads dances that had been a socio-cultural staple of rural communities up and down the country, although ironically the legislation was intended to protect Gaelic culture from insidious foreign influences. The Act gave rise to the more formal, officially-sanctioned céilí dances in parish halls, events which could be overseen and controlled by the priests. According to Bradley, the pre-Dance Hall Act music was vibrant and highly developed, with distinct regional variations heard on archive recordings by musicians forced to emigrate to the States in the ‘20s and ‘30s. This music was virtually extinguished in later years by the hegemonic Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, which fostered a competition standard on a younger generation of musicians.

Bradly sees it as no accident that Travellers produced some of the most remarkable music of the last century. Having the freedom to be able to avoid assimilation into stifled, formulaic mainstream cultural-nationalist movements, they were able to retain their distinct creative autonomy.

The Bothies transmitted something of the wildness of the old music, anchored on the work undertaken by the late Mícheál Ó Domhnaill for the Folklore Commission, collecting songs and tunes in places like west Donegal where the tradition had remained alive. Before the Bothies, he’d cut the Scara Brae album for Gael Linn with his sisters Tríona and Maighread and guitarist Dáithí Sproule, an lp which somewhat lacks the bite of his later recordings. A while later he began performing with Mick Hanly in a duo called Monroe. In 1974 they released Celtic Folkweave, which featured four future members of the Bothy Band. And this is where it really started.

The Bothies formed as a seven piece, Seachtar, founded by bouzouki player Dónal Lunny, who’d left Planxty to set up Mulligan Records. One version of the story has Lunny inviting piper Paddy Keenan, flute player Matt Molloy, fiddler Paddy Glackin, and box player Tony MacMahon to get involved in an early project for the new label. They were subsequently joined by Ó Domhnaill on acoustic guitar and Tríona on clavinet and vocals. Another has the group minus Lunny playing sessions in Dublin pubs before being asked by Lunny to record a few tracks. The name change came after MacMahon left to work as a producer for BBC, the Bothy Band being a nod to the migrant workers of Donegal and Mayo who’d work the Scottish potato harvests, living in deplorable conditions, but bringing the music over with them.

The first lp was recorded with Tommy Peoples on the fiddle. Peoples had replaced Glackin and both brought something of the Donegal tradition to their playing, a fast, highly ornamentative attack, frowned upon by the Comhaltas cultural fascists as being derivative of Scottish fiddling. Keenan came from the Traveller tradition of piping, his flowing, open-fingered style echoes the great Johnny Doran; although he was 19 or 20 when he first heard a tape of Doran’s playing, his own style was a direct result of his father’s tutelage. Lunny’s description of him as the ‘Jimi Hendrix of the pipes’ might be a bit off the mark, but his playing and especially that with the Bothies’ third fiddler Kevin Burke, brought life back to the pipes as an ensemble instrument where before the volume it produced relegated it to solo performance.

Lunny was probably the best-known of the lot of them, having played with saccharine charting folk band Emmet Spiceland before holing up with Christy Moore on the Prosperous lp and putting Planxty together. The bouzouki at this stage had been popularised by Johnny Moynihan and Sweeney’s Men and Lunny brought it to the Bothies as a percussive force, where, with Ní Dhomhnaill’s heavy left hand, they redefined the concept of the rhythm section. Molloy was also from an older tradition. A child prodigy on the flute, he’d moved to Dublin from Mayo in the ‘60s and played in a distinctive style which used a technique similar to that of the travelling pipers. Where his contribution to the first album is equal to the rest of the band, it was his playing with the third Bothy fiddler Kevin Burke from the second lp that marked him out. London-born Burke was steeped in the Sligo tradition, one which was rarely heard around Sligo anymore in but survived in ex-pat communities abroad and especially in the recorded music of Michael Coleman.

It’s difficult to talk about The Bothy Band 1975 without referring to the production. Undertaken by Lunny and Ó Domhnaill, whichever way the studio microphones were placed managed to capture the subtleties inherent in a music produced by a variety of instruments, all with different characteristics and volumes. Nothing was lost in the mix. The clips below show that none of the Bothies were foot-tappers, yet on vinyl at any rate a foot can be heard faintly over the few quieter moments in the sets. At one point you can even hear Lunny smile.

The album rescued tunes from the north Connacht and Donegal traditions that while ubiquitous today, were rarely heard on the wireless and were well beyond the repertoires of the céilí bands. There was an obvious analogy with punk rock (picked up on in the Bradley interview), a musical snook at the ‘new’ traditionalists with a deep respect for the old. Where it certainly wasn’t dance music, you couldn’t fault the musicianship. What’s interesting today though is the audience reaction on the televised clips linked below which mostly date to the period just before the band broke up in ‘79. There’s seemingly little joy to behold in the room behind the smug of cigarette smoke, although Kevin Burke’s comedy turns would usually raise a laugh.

Apart from Burke’s party pieces, the songs were sung by the Ó Domhnaills, mining a seam of Donegal songs collected by Mícheál from his Gweedore relatives and their neighbours. As the Sweeneys had done before them these were songs well outside the come all ye bar room republican tradition. Pretty Peg sung by Tríona runs effortlessly into Craig’s Pipes, a tune common to both Irish and Scottish traditions though played to different rhythms. This is followed on the lp by a strathspey and reel, Hector the Hero and The Laird of Drumblaire. The Scottish influence in their tunes waned somewhat with the departure of Tommy Peoples but remained in the band’s name. Grounded on Ní Dhomhnaill’s clavinet, the Butterfly if anything demonstrates what can be done with the tradition when the musicians aren’t all beholden to play the same notes at the same time. We’ll come back to the Butterfly later. It’s the sets however that made the lp; the attack was relentless, the tunes took off, as one critic put it, like jet engines. Even if you’ve a deep-seated aversion to anything folky, it’s an lp that might just be a gateway drug into the wider tradition.

The Bothies had a reputation for being fond of a few jars and were constantly on the road. A lethargy and world-weariness can be heard to some extent on their third studio lp Out of the Wind – Into the Sun (1977) where the attack was maintained for their second Old Hag You Have Killed Me (1976). This featured their biggest ‘hit’ Fionnghuala, was an exercise in close harmony mouth music collected by Ó Domhnaill in the Hebrides. You’ll hear another slicker version these days advertising something or other on the telescreen.

Their final lp After Hours was recorded in front of a Parisian audience and where the songs don’t appear on the studio albums and lag somewhat in a live context, the tunes come alive with even better performances than the versions previously recorded. It’s probably the easiest Bothy Band album to pick up second-hand and many’s the night it’s kept me awake driving across the country from some event or other.

The Bothies seem to have simply burned out. Constant touring and frequent refreshment stops on the way took their toll for little financial award. Lunny had been there before with Planxty and it must have been difficult for all of them to stop making such vital music together. Stop they did as a band but they continued to play together in various combinations, pushing the music forward in different ways but never looking back to the speedier days of their younger selves. But here is probably where they influenced the tradition more and a handful of albums to come held on to the Sligo and Donegal traditions, bringing them to places they hadn’t been before.

Paddy Glackin continued playing possibly less lubricated sessions after he left the Bothies, but what he recorded in 1980 brought the Donegal fiddle tradition straight into the world of electronica in Hidden Ground, his one-off collaboration with keyboardist and polymath Jolyon Jackson. Jackson has been mentioned here before in connection with Supply Demand and Curve, a Dublin jazz rock combo who swam in the same bohemian waters as Phil Lynott’s Orphanage and Dr. Strangely Strange. Where Glackin brought the fiddle and the tunes (many of which appeared on Bothy Band set lists), Jackson brought a list of instruments too long to list here, but principally an ARP Odyssey and a Polymoog. The former was a portable analogue synthesizer introduced in 1972, one of the first with duophonic capabilities (you could play two notes at the same time) with a sample-and-hold function controllable with sliders and buttons to the front. The Polymoog was a more serious machine altogether, associated more at the time with Gary Numan. Comhaltas have yet to assign a competition category for either device. The first track, The Long Note, was the name of a long-running wireless show hosted at different times by Glackin and Ó Domhnaill. The lp is a divil to find second-hand but their version of The Butterfly can be heard below. If you like what you hear, some useful soul has uploaded the entire album.

Tommy Peoples wasn’t idle either. His 1976 lp The High Part of the Road was recorded with Paul Brady playing what can only be described as tasteful guitar, accompanying the Donegal fiddler on the tunes that had been forgotten prior to the Bothies’ intervention. A more ‘traditional’ album than the others mentioned here, it was recorded the same year Brady got together with Andy Irvine to produce their lysergic exploration of the outer boundaries of dub … well no, but you see where I’m coming from. The High Part of the Road hasn’t made it onto YouTube yet, but most of the tracks on the next lp recorded as a trio with Matt Molloy in ’78 are up there. Brady’s guitar predominates and where he picks out the tunes rightly, the guitar is no substitute for Peoples’ fiddle. As an aside, I’ve only seen Paul Brady once; this was in the back room of a pub in Ballyshannon where instead of giving us Arthur MacBride at The Lakes of Pontchartrain, we were treated to a raucous hour of boogie-woogie piano. Respect.

Burke and Ó Domhnaill kept going as a duo after the Bothies. The experience must have had a profound effect on the fiddler whose outward appearance underwent a change similar to that forced on Dexy’s Midnight Runners by Kevin Rowland in the run-up to their third lp. Burke cut If The Cap Fits for Mulligan in 1978, an album that featured Lunny, Ó Domhnaill and several others on the Mulligan label. Side 2 is essentially one long breathless set starting with Toss the Feathers and with a modicum of fiddle overdubbing throughout, you can close your eyes and you’re in some auld fellas’ pub in Sligo, with Paul Brady coming in on a céilí band piano as the track fades out.

Burke’s liner notes are good, evoking the concerns still being voiced by the likes of Harry Bradley today:

‘I have tried to retain as much as possible the old traditional moods of Irish music as it used to be played long ago in rural areas by small groups of musicians. Many of these older musicians used to play by themselves and for themselves as an expression and a relaxation, just like the old bluesmen. At other times it meant relief from more worldly troubles, a therapy. Today impact and communication are regarded as essential, and I feel that at times people forget that the musician often plays for his own enjoyment. Traditional music in Ireland sometimes suffers from an overdose of severity. This is probably brought about by the tense atmosphere of competitions in which so many young people in the last 20 years have been forced to play. Something I’ll always remember about the Irish musicians that I met when I was a child, was that there was always an element of fun, in their playing and in their music. Sometimes this gave way to a plaintive wistful mood, but the fun was never far away …’

Burke and Ó Domhnaill continued as a duo after the Bothies. Before basing themselves in Portland Oregon for what seemed like a millennia, they cut Promenade for Mulligan in 1979, an album known for the version of Lord Franklin and which should really be better known for Ó Domhnaill’s rendition of Coinleach Ghlas An Fhómhair. If the fans expected a fourth Bothy Band lp they were to be disappointed. This was a more laid back affair, the title track a bossa nova slip jig, the tunes played at a much slower pace as if Burke was still getting his breath back after his time on the road with the Bothies.

Personally speaking, things started to go downhill in the ‘80s when the whole scene began tilting towards the New Age. Certain former Bothies were as central to this development as they had been to the transformation of the tradition 10 years earlier. That still upsets me.

If you happen to find yourself on the northside of Dublin tomorrow (Sunday 24 January), myself and an archaeological colleague will be selecting this sort of stuff on the wheels of steel in a Smithfield hostelry from 8.00. Put it this way, it’ll be the first time Dice Bar hipsters will hear Christy’s version of Joe McCann.

The Kesh Jig

Julia Delaney

The Green Groves of Éireann

Mrs Gilhooley’s Party

Martin Wynne’s/The Longford Tinker

Fionnghuala

Casadh an tSugain

Farewell to Erin

The Pipe on the Hob

The Butterfly

Toss the Feathers

Promenade

Lord Franklin

That handshake…  May 19, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Interesting to see amongst those protesting outside NUI Galway where Gerry Adams shook hands with Britain’s Prince Charles the following:

Crowds gathered at the entrance to NUI Galway, along with several protest groups, including members of the Socialist Workers’ Party.

Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington and students from Femsoc demonstrated over gender equality.

One protester carried a placard reading “Joe McCann – murdered by 1 (one) Para 15/4/72” – referring to the killing of IRA volunteer Joe McCann in Belfast in 1972. Prince Charles is commander-in-chief of the British Parachute Regiment.

That, of course, was OIRA volunteer, Joe McCann.

IRCA Easter 2014 Address April 22, 2014

Posted by guestposter in Irish Politics, The Left.
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Irish Republican Comrades Association – Easter 2014 Address

Speaker Pat John Kelly.

Welcome friends and comrades to the 2014 Official Republican Commemoration organised by the Irish Republican Comrades Association.

We are here to remember friends and comrades and all those who gave their lives in pursuit of an independent Irish Republic based on the needs of the Irish people linked with the beliefs of Tone and Connolly. In other times we would have naively called upon the Irish people to follow us alone in leading them to the promised land of the Socialist Republic. Unfortunately some still cling to that forlorn hope.

Republicanism has always been strong on tradition and has looked back for guidance and has regarded past tactics, with slight modifications, as being the only way forward. Should we be saying today that we hand on the torch to the next generation, therefore dictating without stopping to think what the next generation might want or believe? I don’t believe they would accept that, just as we did not accept it in our youth.

We, as the then Official I.R.A in the early 70’s, did our best to stem the seemingly unstoppable decent into all out sectarian war in this part of the island. Words spoken, and actions taken at the time, attempted to show that there was an anti-sectarian republicanism, founded and championed by the United Irishmen and modernised with the socialist critique of Connolly, still in existence. Thinkers and political activists like Liam McMillen, Cathal Goulding, Joe McCann, and others, recognised the critical nature of the impending disaster our society was spiralling towards and called for talks between all of the armed protagonists and political representatives!

Today, simply acting like old soldiers who held to the one true faith and reminding people as to how right we were all along and that the political compromise we called for over 40 years ago has in some way come to pass is simply not good enough. Some people could do that, and maybe believe that they are entitled to do that, but it would no basis for the forward movement of politics in our society. Friends and comrades it is time for an honest appraisal and critical look at our position and sphere of influence in the reality we live in today.

In recognition of the current reality the majority of our membership formed the Irish Republican Comrades Association because it best describes who and what we are. We conferred no grandiose titles on ourselves as was the case in the past. Irish Republican because we are followers of Tone and the enlightenment Republicanism of the United Irishmen and Comrades to denote our adherence to the socialist beliefs and principles of the Movement we came from. We therefore invite all those who still adhere to the principles of the Official I.R.A as it was termed and its political manifestations to forsake conspiracies and join with in this honest endeavour.

All who claim to be adherents of that tradition and background have to remember that it is the living we have to convince and work with politically, not the dead. Those who are seemingly in ongoing contact with the dead in relation to existing political reality must grasp and accept the fact that it is conversations with the living that have to take place now.
In recent history each Republican and or Socialist grouping has tended to regard their political interpretations with an almost religious fanaticism. Those who differed were classed as “heretics” deserving of more hatred than those who actually rob the people of their entitlements. In Belfast, the modern cockpit of Nationalist/Republican vitriol and rancour, led to school friends from the poorest neighbourhoods labelling each other Trotskyites or Stalinists, Nationalists or Communists. Of course the all-encompassing description “traitor” served, when other labels did not quite fit, leading to the same school mates and friends shooting and killing each other at the behest of malignant gurus.
Was it worth it? Let’s face it we all practised forms and degrees of fanaticism. The time is long overdue for a serious degree of realism in how we treat and engage with one and other and how we will attempt to influence the next generation.
This will be of major importance in creating the necessary tolerance, understating and trust to accommodate and build a meaningful and relevant “popular front” in building a strong alliance in opposition to the current right-wing political and economic orthodoxy accepted across these islands and around the globe. It is no longer of any relevance to the Irish people today which modern day historical group or organisation claims to be the one and only true inheritors of the political beliefs and value systems of Republicanism or Socialism.

In the monumental task ahead the one thing we have that the present and future generation of activists may require is experience. Experience at organising, experience at making mistakes, experience at weathering defeats, experience of not simply taking the populist line that always leads to the corruption of political ideals. That is what we can pass on, along with our political views of course, and help to inspire working people to strive for a new way forward.

Are we any closer after all the years of struggle and sacrifice to achieving the goal of a new way forward? What is the feeling among the broad range of people and groups on the left? Is it hope or despair? I fear it is the latter. We all failed in not having the courage to seriously address this issue. The broad left has failed, though many groups seem to still believe the failure is due to the reason that all the others did not adhere to their particular position.

We have had several generations of excuses for the failure of serious engagement to assist in the building of progressive politics. I am not saying that each group should simply abandon their individual political analysis. Just that we cease to abandon the potential for creating political progress in the interests of group or organisational self-righteousness! Many of the older so called left parties seem to have lost their way entirely. This of course could be blamed on lack of pressure from the grass roots. Are we and many groups like us too contented in our own small comfort zones to rise to the real and necessary challenge of a new left re-alignment?

Politics for the working class North and South have not progressed in our time. Like most countries they have regressed. While class enemies reap their ever-increasing bounty unimpeded at the expense of general humanity a political, economic and social battle-plan is being implemented across the capitalist world. It is aimed at dismantling of all the gains achieved by the struggles of working people in all countries over the last 150 years.

The only two political philosophies that have in the past been truly international are Capitalism and Socialism. Capitalism now enjoys runaway success and now views even the mildest forms of Social Democratic politics, grudgingly tolerated in the years of the modern Cold War, as a dangerous threat to their interests.

If “international communism” was Capitalisms deadliest enemy during that time, it is now the concept of “Social Democracy” itself that capitalism has now openly declared war on. It is fighting that war on all fronts with a ferocity not seen in history since the epoch of Capitalist, Colonial and Imperialist expansion of the 18th & 19th centuries. The current crisis and lack of a serious left political response is an international one.

If Social Democracy, and the parties who have represented it and still claim to represent it, cannot be bought, bullied or bribed into the acceptance of their economic and political hegemony, then they must be smashed and destroyed.

Here on this island and in Britain that process has already taken place with hardly a whimper of organised protest. The political structure in the Republic now lacks even the semblance of a Social Democratic voice, a necessary touchstone for all progressive politics.

This is all taking place while the groups and organisations on this island who should be working in defence of our class are furiously quacking at each other like angry ducks in an ever diminishing pond of political relevance. Continuous and ultimately futile deliberations about the philosophical minutiae of what the ultimate socialist society is and will be, must be left for another and less important day.

What is our response locally? Firstly no group should continue to dictate their analysis as the only way forward in an all or nothing syndrome. The way forward has to come about as the result of intense debate involving all those who strive for a just and humanist society. The main issues effecting working people of fair and decent wages, housing, health, education are the battlegrounds where common purpose should be found and acted upon.

We would advocate that there must be a whole new approach to co-operation and forming a united force to confront the advancement of the modern Capitalist agenda. Had anyone predicted fifty years ago that the banking and financial system would collapse as a result of gambling debts and the majority of working people would foot the entire bill people would have been laughed at!

The building of a “Social Forum” could begin the process to remedy that situation. A Social Forum north and south to re-awaken and re-invigorate the Republicanism and Socialism of James Connolly, Liam Mellows, Peader O Donnell, George Gilmore and Jim Larkin. A Forum that takes cognisance of the modern society and reality we live and exist in today would be a good starting point. Republican Congress was 80 years ago it is maybe long overdue that a similar concept at least be talked about in relation to the idea.

No matter what the pundits may say sectarianism is being challenged daily by a range of working class groups and organisations, ourselves included. If the sectarian language and chants seem louder and shriller today it is because the element of doubt is beginning to register. In saying that we still have a long way to go to rid our society of this ancient plague is an understatement to say the least. Sectarian voting patterns, and the outdated concepts of British and Irish nationalisms that perpetuate it in the North, pollutes Irish politics both North and South.

The present political power holders in the North continually highlight the differences between the two sides of our divided society, inventing new cultural ones as required. This is to perpetuate the “them and us” syndrome that saves them real political campaigning at elections.

A Social Forum in the North could provide a middle ground where working class groups could concentrate and elaborate on the commonalities of both sides. It could act as a venue where activists place one foot in with the other foot firmly in their own camp until the term “traitor” so beloved of Irish politics loses its power over progressive thinking.

This concept is not being proposed as some kind of magic formula or a quick fix solution to entrenched sectarian attitudes. It would be more the beginning of a long drawn out process to introduce the real politics of left versus right to a tribal voting system.

Friends and Comrades this is not a day for smugness of any kind. It time to think and renew open and frank debate and consider with others the proposition of a new departure.

Left Archive: Resistance – Civilian Resistance c. 1971, People’s Democracy? February 25, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Official Sinn Féin, People's Democracy.
6 comments

Resistance

To download the above file please click on the following link: Resistance

Many thanks to Alan Mac Simoin for scanning and forwarding this document to the Archive.

Unusually there’s no clear provenance of this document. It mentions the Civil Rights Movement, People’s Democracy and the Republican Movement, and the cover is obviously taken from the famous Joe McCann ‘Army of the People’ photograph from the Official IRA. That said it appears to have been written by NICRA or PD members and any clarification on it would be very welcome.

It was written in the wake of internment and before the suspension of Stormont in March 1972.
As such it calls for the end of internment on foot of what it considers to be a mobilisation of the people. It also focusses on Crossmaglen and gives a detailed list of activities in that area such as protests, barricades and other forms of opposition to the state. There’s also a ‘Jail Journal’ reprinted from the Irish Times which consists of a personal account by Seamus O Tuathail, former editor of the OSF United Irishman and his experiences in Crumlin Road Prison.

The document also states the aims of the groups that it represents, most important of which is the establishment of a ‘democratic assembly’ and that:

The Assembly would be organised on a 32-county basis, and would lay the foundation for an all-Ireland democratic republic in the tradition of Tone, Connolly and the 1916 Proclamation.

Left Archive: Law (?) and Orders: The Belfast ‘Curfew’ of 3-5 July 1970, Central Citizens’ Defence Committee July 3, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in Central Citizens' Defence Committee, History, Irish Left Online Document Archive, Northern Ireland.
65 comments

CCDC Law (?) Order

40 years ago today, at about 4.30pm, the RUC and British army raided 24 Balkan Street in the Falls, looking for arms. The incident was to spark what the United Irishman of August 1970 described as “the biggest military engagement since 1916 between units of the Irish Republican Army and British Crown forces”, and resulted in 3,000 British troops, backed by helicopters and armoured cars, placing an illegal curfew on around 60 streets in the lower Falls. The curfew lasted from 10pm on Friday July 3rd until 8am on Sunday morning, with a two hour break on the Saturday evening for people to buy essentials. Four men were killed, all of them by the British army, amid mass arrests and house searches. Three were shot dead, and one was deliberately run over. This document describes the deaths of Charles O’Neill, William Burns, Patrick Elliman, and Zbigniew Uglik. It also gives a detailed description of the hardships experienced by the civilian population as a result of the curfew itself, and as a result of the actions of the British troops, many of whom engaged in an orgy of destruction and looting. The British seized about 100 weapons, 25 lbs of explosives, 21,0000 rounds and some radio equipment and gas masks. In the weeks after the curfew, the Central Citizens’ Defence Committee conducted a survey of the residents within the area placed under curfew, and the pamphlet provides a invaluable insight into the experience of the local population. A sense of how intense the fighting was and the scale of the British army operation can be seen in its own statistics: its men fired 1,454 live rounds, and deployed 218 CS gas grenades and 1,355 gas canisters. Many of the latter were fired into the area from a large catapult attached to the back of an army jeep like a medieval siege engine. And no, I’m not making that up.

The Central Citizens’ Defence Committee was founded on August 16th 1969 on the initiative of Jim Sullivan, adjutant of the Belfast Command of the Irish Republican Army. Sullivan was its first Chair. It acted as the coordinating body for the various defence groups that had sprung up in the various areas in August 1969 and after. It rapidly expanded, and at one point, according to Paul Arthur, 95 delegates represented 75,000 people. The wide-ranging nature of the body can be seen in the fact that while Sullivan continued to play a leading role in it, it also included some of the local priests from St. Peter’s Cathedral and people connected to the Nationalist Party and to Gerry Fitt and Paddy Devlin, the Westminster and Stormont MPs for the area. It wasn’t a left organisation, but it included significant left-wing elements, and its account of the Falls curfew certainly deserves a place in our archive.

This document was produced in September 1970. It was written by Seán Óg Ó Fearghail, with a foreword from Mícheál Ó Dathlaoich (Michael Dolley, a Member of the Royal Irish Academy and lecturer at Queen’s). The British Army believed Ó Dathlaoich to be the real author. The British Army were concerned enough by it to rapidly produce a detailed response that was sent to media outlets. The document starts with a brief historical overview; gives a detailed account of the events that led to the curfew and the curfew itself (one, it must be said, that downplays the extent of the resistance to the British army); and the second part of the document is a breakdown of the result of the CCDC’s survey of the residents, which was conducted by teams of mainly students, with the curfewed areas being broken up into different zones, as explained in the document. Although in many respects, a largely factual and narrative account, it does have a clear analysis, and lays the blame for what happened squarely at the door of the British Army for its overreaction, and the document accuses the army of implementing a pre-planned strategy.

The historical overview describes the social, economic and living conditions within the area, and stresses the religiosity of the people, as well as the large number of ex-British servicemen in the area. The account is at pains to stress the respectability of the area, reflecting the extent to which the Catholic church and the local social elite had become involved in the CCDC. It also provides a quick description of the civil rights campaign, the outbreak of the Troubles, and the weekend before the curfew (June 27th/28th), when serious sectarian violence had led to six deaths in the Crumlin Road and the Short Strand, with the emerging Provisionals responsible for them all, including that of a Catholic accidentally shot dead while cooperating with the Provisionals in the Short Strand. As noted already, the account of the incidents that led to the curfew blames the British Army for not ignoring the hurling of a few stones, and instead choosing to respond with CS gas, and repeatedly failing to back away from confrontation instead of further provoking it. It also notes the recklessness of army actions that endangered civilians, but also describes the throwing of homemade hand grenades at the military by the Provisionals that escalated the situation, and which they admitted to the Irish Times of July 7th 1970 had been a mistake. It stresses the contempt with which both the hierarchy and the troops on the ground treated both the CCDC and elected politcians trying to bring things to a halt – Devlin was threatened with death by troops holding him – and the mistreatment of civilians, their homes, and their property. At the same time, however, there is a reluctance to smear the names of entire army units, and it goes out of its way in part II, the survey, to point out that many of the soldiers behaved well. Among the headings for Part II of the hardships faced by civilians are Shortage of Food, Loss of Liberty, Financial Hardship, Cruelty to Animals, and Brutality of Troops.

The Conclusion lays the blame for the Curfew squarely at the door of General Sir Ian Freeland, General Officer Commanding and Director of Operations for the British Army in Northern Ireland, and warns that the curfew may be seen by future historians as a significant step in the alienation of the non-unionist population. It also goes out of its way to point out that a formal curfew had been called, as the British had taken to denying this due to its illegality. It attacks the army for the deaths of the civilians, and its claims to have killed two snipers whose bodies were moved out of the area, while again downplaying the extent of the resistance. All in all, this is a superb insight into the curfew, and into how some important sections of public opinion felt about it.

Apart from the inherent interest of the document itself as a source, it is worth taking a minute to consider the wider significance of the curfew. In retrospect, we can see it as the first expression of a new and more hardline policy being introduced by the British military, the new Tory government (elected June 18th 1970) and the Stormont regime. The murders of the four civilians as a result of utterly reckless and dangerous firing by the military, and the false claims about killing snipers whose bodies have disappeared to justify the killing of innocent civilians are all too familiar, especially two weeks after the Saville report was published. Having said that, the claims that from the curfew on, the non-unionist population considered itself at war with the British are not accurate either.

There has been a lot of myth making about the curfew, and it has become the centre of disputes over what happened and how it is remembered. The area was a stronghold of the IRA, with the Provisionals numbering only about 12 to perhaps 150 members of the IRA, the Auxiliaries and the Fianna. The IRA (Official) version has always been that the Provisionals were ordered to throw the nail bombs at the soldiers, and then withdraw from the area to leave the IRA to fight it out with the British. A small number of Provisionals did stay behind – possibly against orders, as the Irish Times interview alluded to above says that the Provisionals as an organisation were not active in the area – including Brendan Hughes, who gave several accounts of his activities before his death. By his own account in Voices from the Grave, the Provisionals were involved in a five or six minute gun battle before hunkering down and sitting it out. The fighting lasted from around 8pm until 3 or 4am. The Provisionals have also always stressed the part played by their members in the march of the women that is claimed to have broken the curfew on the Sunday. For the 35th anniversary, the Provisionals produced a DVD about the curfew, and for the 40th, they centred a commemoration around the march of the women. As is clear from the CCDC document, the curfew was already finished, although that would not have been known to those marching.

The reason for the Provisional stress on the march was because they could not reasonably claim the credit for the fighting, although it seems that in recent years, since the DVD at least, there has been an attempt to annexe the military resistance to their cause, just as several members of the IRA (Official) killed as late as 1972 now appear on the Provisional roll of honour. The list of stories covered for the first edition of the new monthly An Phoblacht includes the following. “The Falls Curfew, the Defence of Ardoyne and the Battle of St Matthews”, which suggests an attempt to portray the curfew as part of a seamless whole in which the Provisionals stepped forward as the defenders of the oppressed catholic community, although I haven’t read the paper, and so could be wrong there, and will be happy to be corrected.

The IRA and Republican Clubs were quite clear in claiming credit for the fighting, and I think it is fair to say that the curfew is remembered as the set-piece battle of the IRA in its Belfast heartland, involving as it did large numbers of people and many important figures in the history and development of The Workers’ Party, including the likes of Jim Sullivan, Liam McMillen, and Joe McCann. And for the fortieth anniversary, a large group of Workers’ Party members who were involved in the curfew as members of D Company have produced a pamphlet (called The Story of the Falls Curfew) putting down their experience and analysis of the curfew, and combatting what they see as the attempts by others to write them out of the story of the curfew, or to misrepresent their motives for taking the actions they did. This is not just the Provisionals, but also those journalists and historians who have claimed they felt they had something to prove in competition with the Provisionals after the events of the previous weekend. They point out that a desire to defend their area was not the same as a desire to be seeing as the defenders of the Catholics. The pamphlet includes an account of another event alluded to by Brendan Hughes in Voices from the Grave, when IRA volunteers pulled guns to prevent a Catholic sectarian mob, of which Hughes was a member, burning Protestant homes as a way of stressing the differences between the two.

The media coverage of the 40th anniversary has reflected these ongoing issues about historical memory. Alan Murray, in the Belfast Telegraph on June 23rd, described the ongoing sense of injustice felt by the families of two Protestant men shot dead by the Provisionals during the violence at the Short Strand on 27th June. They feel that their relatives were innocent men, shot dead by sectarian gunmen, and that every year their memory is smeared to hide the truth. The Andersonstown News has for its past few editions been running stories about the curfew, including interviews with Workers’ Party members who were active that night and with some of those involved in the women’s march, detailing how they “broke” the curfew. Another story with another woman talks about the curfew being over before the march. A few of these stories have been among the small number from each edition that get posted on the website, and likewise some of the texts discussing them have been published online too. It’s interesting to note what stories and texts from the printed editions have been left offline. You can still find British soldiers who believe that the bodies of two snipers were successfully hidden, and that the shooting was by and large justified. The curfew remains a very good example of how during the Troubles, competing versions of history were fostered for political reasons, and how myths can take hold and become unshakeable truth in popular memory.

The Left Archive: ‘The Role of the IRA, 1962-1967’ by Liam McMillen, Official Sinn Féin… October 13, 2008

Posted by guestposter in Irish History, Irish Politics, Official Sinn Féin, Sinn Féin.
40 comments

A very welcome guest post for the Archive today from Brian Hanley of Queens University, Belfast. The IRA, 1926 – 1936 is perhaps his best known work amongst a general readership, but for those of us here his forthcoming book co-authored with Scott Millar, on the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party will be of particular interest.

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above lecture was delivered by Liam (Billy) McMillen in Dublin during June 1972 at a series of lectures organised by (Official) Sinn Fein to commemorate the birth of Wolfe Tone. As ever the context is important. In 1972 Liam McMillen was one of the best known republicans in Northern Ireland, having been involved in the IRA in Belfast since the early 1950s. From Ton Street, in what is usually called the Lower Falls, his family had been involved in the republican movement since the 1920s. McMillen was first jailed in 1953. For a period during the late 1950s he joined the breakaway Saor Uladh organisation, before returning to the IRA. He was imprisoned again during the IRA’s Border Campaign and on release in 1961 emigrated to England where he worked as a scaffolder. Known as the ‘wee man’ McMillen was a fluent Irish speaker and active in language circles in Belfast. In 1963 he became officer commanding the IRA in that city; after the split in 1969 he was O/C of the Belfast Official IRA and a member of that organisation’s Army Council. When this speech was delivered the Official IRA had just declared a conditional ceasefire, and the North was entering into a period of uncertainity with rumours of a Provisional IRA ceasefire on one hand and increasing sectarian violence on the other. By the time the speech was published in 1975 it would be as part of a tribute to McMillen (Liam MacMaolain: Separatist, Socialist, Republican by D. O’Hagan, 1975), the 48 year old Official IRA leader having been shot dead on April 28th 1975 by the organisation that would become the INLA.

The lecture itself is a brief account of republican politics in the North, particuarly in Belfast from 1962 to the outbreak of the Troubles in 1969. It is a significant document, often overlooked in histories of the IRA and the politics in the 1960s more generally. It certainly provides a different interpretation of many of the well known events of that period and throws new light on some aspects of republican strategy. It begins by describing the aftermath of the Border Campaign and the task the IRA faced in re-building and the realisation, for some at least, that ‘physical force alone had failed.’ McMillen suggests that the early 1960s saw the ‘final surrender by Fianna Fail of the national ideal’ the moves by Sean Lemass to recognise Northern Ireland part of a trend towards telling nationalists to accept partition and ‘settle down to become happy little Britishers.’ That Fianna Fail under Lemass was dragging the South into greater reliance on British imperialism was a central argument for 1960s republicans.

Describing the weakness of the Belfast IRA he nevertheless asserts that their role in ‘upsetting Britain’s plans for Ireland’ would be an important one. McMillen claims that the nationwide commemorations of Wolfe Tone’s birth were the beginning of a re-organisation. He recounts the story of the controversey surrounding the refusal of the then Belfast IRA commander Billy McKee to break an RUC ban on the tricolour at the Wolfe Tone event; in the aftermath of this dispute McKee resigned and was replaced by McMillen. (Bad feeling about this incident simmered and became acute when McKee emerged in late 1969 as a founder of the Provisional IRA in the city). McMillen argues that the ‘tri-colour was to play a central role in the future developments in Belfast, especially in re-awakening the dormont nationalism that slumbered in the hearts of the people.’

In October 1964 McMillen stood as a republican candidate in the Westminister election. As he explains ‘the task of contesting the election fell on the local units of the IRA.’ McMillen recieved 3,256 votes, the best of four republican candidates in the city. He suggests that this proved that ‘abstentionism was dead, and that it was time to bury the corpse.’ (Whether or not he actually thought this in 1964 is hard to say; though the IRA discussed and rejected abandoning abstentionism in 1965.) But the election was notable for the violence which followed the police seizure of a tricoulor from McMillen’s election HQ in Divis Street. Ian Paisley had held several provocative rallies in this period and threatened to march on Divis Street to remove the flag himself if the police did not act. After the RUC smashed their way into the republican HQ there followed was several days of rioting, with the unveiling of new tricolours and the singing of ‘the National Anthem with a solemnity and fervour’ that McMillen claimed never to have witnessed ‘before or since.’ McMillen claims that the events ‘embittered the nationalist population against the Stormont regime (and) set the stage for future confrontations between the youth of the nationalist areas and the RUC.’ The IRA also gained a ‘couple of dozen’ new recruits. For McMillen the events proved that ‘the embers of patriotism still smouldered among the people’ and that ‘a good strong republican breeze was all that was required to fan those embers into flames.’

As for the IRA itself McMillen notes that ‘the routine work of organising a physical force movement continued’ and ‘men were still being recruited, organised into sections, companies and units, and were being trained in the use of arms and explosives.’ McMillen had argued elsewhere that the revolution would have ‘three phases…political agitation, economic resistance and physical force.’ (United Irishman, December 1970). At Easter 1965 in Belfast Sinn Fein president and leading IRA figure Tomas Mac Giolla spoke of the importance of confronting discrimination in the local government franchise. McMillen notes the attempts by the Belfast IRA to establish ‘one-man, one-vote’ committees that year, but that campaign was stillborn, partly according to McMillan because of the ‘intransigence’ of the Northern Ireland Labour Party. However he notes that this effort was in many ways the ‘forerunner’ of the Civil Rights Association. In late 1965 an IRA unit disrupted the showing of British Army recruitment film in a Catholic school in Belfast, (an event McMillen mistakenly dates as happening in 1966). Several Belfast IRA members, including 18-year-old Joe McCann were also jailed that year.

The buildup to the Easter 1966 Anniversary celebrations and the importance the IRA placed on them is also related by McMillen; ‘the whole resources and energy of the Belfast movement were devoted’ to organising the commemorations. They were seen as an opportunity to flout Stormont’s ban on republican symbols. Certainly anyone who believes that militant republicanism was utterly marginal prior to 1969 should look at contemporary coverage of the 1966 commemorations in the North and the large numbers attracted to the Easter events. McMillen mentions two members of the Belfast IRA staff being jailed at this time; he was one of them. This was ‘a small price to pay’ he suggests for the ‘vast return of national fervour’ that accompanied the celebrations. But ominously sectarian tension was also present with clashes when Ian Paisley (again) led a march through the Market area of Belfast in June. McMillen recounts how the local IRA intervened during these riots. He also notes how the newly formed Ulster Volunteer Force had targeted IRA members prior to their killing of Catholic Peter Ward (Contemporary republican sources claim that the UVF had assistance from the RUC Special Branch.)

McMillen was a member of the first executive of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) when it was formed in 1967 and helped draw up its constitution. He notes that though the initial meeting was ‘attended in strength’ by members of the Republican movement it was decided not to pack the committee but ensure it was broadly based. (It is worth noting that the presence of the commander of the Belfast IRA on the civil rights executive would hardly have reassured Unionists or the RUC about the organisation’s ‘reformist’ nature). After some months McMillen quietly stepped down and was replaced by Kevin Agnew, a republican from Co. Derry (who would later support the Provisionals). Outside of NICRA activity there were now five Republican Clubs in Belfast though McMillen claims that activists in the city ‘dragged their feet’ in terms of social agitation. He may be slightly exaggerating here. It was only really in Dublin and Derry that the republican movement had prioritized housing agitation during 1967 and Belfast was as active in many ways by 1968 as Cork or other areas. McMillen also notes the IRA’s bomb attacks on British Army recruitment offices in Belfast and Lisburn as part of their ‘happy blend of political agitation and military activity.’ These occurred after the setting up of NICRA (in May 1967 and January 1968) and demonstrate that republican engagement in civil rights did not see the end of armed activity in the North.

McMillen then turns to the republican policy of pushing NICRA to take to the streets, arguing for a march in Belfast during 1968. He does not mention the events in Dungannon which led to the decision to march there but notes that the ‘bulk’ of the Northern IRA were present on August 24th 1968. (In fact of course many were stewards). McMillen perhaps surprisingly describes the march as a ‘disappointing anti-climax.’ He does not recount how the day saw militant speeches from among others Austin Currie and Gerry Fitt who described the RUC as ‘black bastards.’ (While much of the recent coverage has emphasized the influence of the American Civil Rights movement it is worth noting that the marchers in Dungannon sang ‘A Nation Once Again’ as well as ‘We Shall Overcome’ when confronted by RUC lines.)

McMillen then notes the importance of Derry on the 5th of October. Most interestingly he recounts how the IRA had met to discuss their tactics on the day. Again perhaps surprisingly he argues that had the RUC not stopped the march then ‘the CRA would have died a quiet and natural death.’ Instead ‘the events of that day led directly to the dramatic developments’ of 1972. He points to two factors that inspired the RUC’s actions; they had received information that the IRA planned to cause ‘havoc’ in Derry and hence reacted ‘violently to the first gentle nudge’ and secondly that Belfast republicans ‘had been instructed, in the event of the parade being halted by police cordons, to push leading Nationalist politicians into the police ranks. This they did to such effect that one became the first casualty…receiving a busted head from a peeler’s baton.’ (Little sympathy there it seems for Gerry Fitt). McMillen describes how ‘the television coverage of the RUC brutality that day exposed the fascist nature of the Orange/Unionist domination and its ruthless denial of elementary democratic rights to a large section of the citizenry.’ McMillen’s use of the term ‘fascist’ might surprise some, though perhaps it is an indication of how little reform republicans really expected from Stormont. After October 5th the movement mushroomed and McMillen is positive about how it developed; ‘it exposed in a manner which no other movement could have done the blatant injustices of the Special Powers Act, gerrymandering and discrimiation.’ McMillen also claims that the Civil Rights movement raised demands on behalf of the ‘poorest class of Protestants.’ (In fact there is little evidence that NICRA devoted much attention to working class Protestants in its 1968-69 heyday. There were rancourous debates within the Civil Rights movement on whether class demands should be raised to attract working class Protestant support. In general republicans argued against raising these demands for fear of splitting the movement; ‘Republicans must be the foremost advocates of unity in the Civil Rights Movement. They must strongly oppose those who call for a split in the Civil Rights Movement in the spurious belief that in this way that working class Catholics and Protestants will get together for ‘socialist’ and ‘non-sectarian’ demands.’ United Irishman, June 1969). During the winter of 1968 there were several more Civil Rights marches in Derry and one in Armagh (republicans such as Johnnie White in Derry and Denis Cassin were prominent stewards at these events). McMillen briefly mentions the second Derry march. An ominous development in both cities were sectarian clashes after these events.

Then comes January 1969 and Burntollet. McMillen makes no comment on the march, which for some commentators has become a piviotal event. Republican opinion on the march and indeed on the Peoples Democracy organisation itself was divided. Republicans took part in the Belfast to Derry march and provided shelter and food to the marchers. (The United Irishman’s criticism of PD was that they were not sufficently anti-partitionist, not that they were ultra-left). McMillen does not mention the serious rioting in Derry in the march’s wake nor the rioting in Newry a week later when Belfast republicans were again prominent in the disturbances. However he does explain how in April after more rioting in Derry the Belfast IRA burned down 10 post offices in the city to stretch RUC resources. There was also a republican organised march on the Falls Road that ended in large-scale rioting. (The IRA did not claim the fire-bombings at the time, though IRA leader Cathal Goulding publicly warned that ‘if our people in the six counties are oppressed and beaten up…then the IRA will have no alternative but to take military action against the police force [we] have no alternative but to protect our people or allow them to be slaughtered and we are not going to allow them to be slaughtered’ Irish Times, 22 April 1969).

McMillen then notes the various political endeavours of the movement in Belfast, while also estimating IRA membership and arms in the city. Here he praises Joe McCann as one of those who understood the need for both political and miltary activity. (When McMillen gave this lecture McCann was dead, killed by British troops in April 1972). By 1969 the Belfast Housing Action Committee had organised several protests and was squatting homeless families in Divis Towers. McMillen mentions the attempts by republicans to make contact with housing protesters on the Shankhill Road. He then explains that by the summer of 1969 there was increasing pressure on the IRA to respond with weapons to clashes between nationalists and the RUC. Finally he describes the events after the Apprentice Boys march in Derry on August 12th.

Here McMillen, perhaps deliberately, confuses the dates. It was on August 13th that republicans organised demonstrations to tie up RUC resources in Belfast. These led to riots on the Falls Road and it was later that evening that the IRA opened fire on the RUC in Leeson Street. This was one of a number of armed actions carried out under McMillen’s orders on August 13-14th. It was the following day, August 14th that the fighting in west Belfast took on an inter-communal nature. Again McMillen does not go into any detail about the IRA’s role in this, though he asserted in 1970 that ‘the meagre armaments in the hands of the Belfast units were put to their most effective use and, it can be safely said, prevented even more widespread death and destruction’ (United Irishman, December 1970). McMillen himself was arrested on the morning of the 15th in a house off the Falls along with Malachy McGurran (a leading IRA member from Lurgan) and Frank Cards (Proinsias MacAirt, a Belfast IRA member). Interestingly, he asserts, in contrast to much commentary, that during the fighting ‘the people turned to the IRA for leadership and defence’ and that after August the movement ‘enjoyed a popularity among the people it had never experienced before.’ Though centrally involved in the republican split in Belfast McMillen leaves discussion of the formation of the Provisionals to ‘another lecture.’

McMillen’s account is notable for the emphasis it places on reviving nationalist feeling among Belfast Catholics, and for its openness about the role of the IRA in both the Civil Rights movement and in Belfast during 1969. It is particularly important given that recent commentary on the Civil Rights movement has downplayed or ignored altogether republican involvement. It also contrasts very strongly with later claims about republican policy during that period by both historians and some of McMillen’s comrades. There were clearly contradictory influences at work in 1960s republicanism. It was not only the ‘ultra-left’ in the Civil Rights movement who desired confrontation, nor was it only republican ‘traditionalists’ who were interested in armed action. Republicans were in favour of non-violent tactics on occasion but they had not abandoned violence as a strategy; they were after all revolutionaries, commited to the overthrow of both the Northern and Southern states. Cathal Goulding stated publicly in February 1969 that ‘if the civil rights movement fails there will be no answer other than the answer we have always preached. Everyone will realize it and all constitutional methods will go overboard’ (Irish Times, 7 February 1969). I think it is fair to say that in 1969 at least McMillen would have agreed with those sentiments.

Brian Hanley.

‘Yeltsin Gorbachev’, ‘cedarlounge revolutions’ and polar bears – oh my! June 8, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
12 comments

Busy times, a new poll out from the Sunday Business Post that puts the referendum at a lot tighter 3% for the ayes. But frankly I’m relaxing this weekend (other than to ensure that tomorrows Left Archive has a certain link to last Monday’s) so just a few thoughts (and hat tip to splintered sunrise who occasionally does something similar) finish off the weekend.

What words are responsible for greatest number of people arriving at the Cedar Lounge Revolution over the past 30 days?

Well, it’s not “yeltsin gorbachev” (9). Nor is it another historic duo “stalin and hitler” (18). “kathy sinnott” does a bit better at 12. Joe McCann is a bit lower at 11, but thankfully better than “rush limbaugh” (10). “peoples democracy” is at 14. “the killings at coolacrease” are at 12. The “Left Archive” a mere 10. C’mon folks, a bit of interest :).

“Killing Joke” are at 40, but their singer Jaz Coleman is at 14. David Cameron is at 39, which is an interesting – or possibly worrying – trend. Lisbon may exercise some, but only 19 enquiries as regards ‘coir lisbon’ came this way. A mere 20 for ‘irish republican army’. And then weirdly ‘chips’ are at 204 (at least it’s weird until one remembers it is linked to US health insurance).

Not entirely unsurprising, though, that searches for the ‘cedar lounge’, ‘cedarlounge revolution’, ‘the cedar lounge revolution’ or ‘cedar lounge revolution’ remain high and indeed top the All Time stats. Good to know.

But the top ranking search term of the month? Almost incredibly it is ‘polar bear’ up in the 700s. Nothing to do with “Lost” (I’m still waiting for the explanation for that – or am I?), but instead to do with a post some time back that considered the reasons for the animus of Spiked online towards our ursine friends…

Not just that, of those who did arrive this was very popular as a destination…

And who can blame people? Furry, ferocious and photogenic. Quite a combination.

Here is Knut, the polar bear cub from Germany, who has at least two of the above qualities and will therefore ensure that (shamelessly) polar bears remain central to the revolutionary endeavours of the Cedar Lounge Revolution.

Of course being the CLR there is a political, or at least somewhat serious element to the Knut story as noted on the C4 blogs:

Frank Albrecht, the German animal rights activist who was supposedly advocating Knuticide, was in fact arguing the opposite side of the case.

He was talking about a case in Leipzig zoo, where a brown bear cub, born in similar circumstances, had been put down. The zoo was taken to court, but justified the claim on the basis that it was cruel for a bear to be reared by humans. And they won.

Mr Albrecht merely pointed out that if you were to follow the same logic, it would mean death to Knut. And before you could say ‘delightful little bundle of cuteness’, someone at the Bild newspaper took a firm hold of the wrong end of the stick. Knut became a star, and Mr Albrecht became an evil bear-killer to TV viewers across the world.

Perhaps he should join Spiked online. They may have an out-reach group for such matters.

And on that note roll on the week…

Myth-making: Political imagery, posters from the Troubles and the contradictions of armed struggle by socialists September 3, 2007

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Design, Northern Ireland, The North.
35 comments

ppo2984.jpg

I was looking for the poster above on the net after skimming through the actually quite good “INLA – Deadly Divisions” by Jack Holland and Henry McDonald while cross referencing with the R Ó B biography dealt with in part here last week. The poster was based on this photograph…

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…taken of Joe McCann of the OIRA when that organisation took over Inglis Bakery in the Markets area in Belfast during the internment swoop in August 1971.

Anyhow, I found it on the rather good yankinulster blog which appears to have been dormant now for over a year. It’s a pity, the eponymous yank shares many of the same interests of the CLR, including political design culture and the North. But the yank has also established a rather fine exhibition of political posters which span the Troubles and include such gems as this one which clearly indicates the geographic and territorial preoccupations of Ulster Unionism in the early 1970s…

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. .. and this fine, albeit using a somewhat chilling visual imagery, semi-constructivist poster for the IRSP.

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yankinulster also provides a good bit of information in the accompanying captions. Very impressive indeed.

Anyway, back to the Joe McCann poster. In a way it provides the perfect example of the dichotomy facing Official Sinn Féin in the early 1970s. On the one hand the necessity to retain and project an armed presence in the North – particularly in the face of those upstarts from PSF. On the other the ideological drive to the left led to some recognition of the destructive aspects of that very armed presence in terms of building working class unity. Joe McCann was one of those who exemplified the link between those two positions, a link that became progressively more attenuated as the decade lengthened.

McCann had gone with the Officials during the split, but was always strongly in favour of an armed campaign and is alleged to have participated in various activities including [according to wiki and Deadly Divisions] the attempted murder of John Taylor of the UUP then Northern Ireland Minister for Home Affairs, and the deaths of up to 15 British soldiers. So while the image is one of the revolutionary as romantic hero, Starry Plough flag fluttering in the breeze behind him, the reality was considerably more hard-edged and contentious. What possible political gain could there have been from murdering John Taylor? How precisely did an armed campaign fit into the project of winning hearts and minds in the working class as an entity which comprised Nationalists and Unionists?

These questions aren’t in any sense to take away from his self-evident courage, or indeed the reality that McCann was genuinely interested in and convinced of the utility of political struggle as well as an armed campaign, merely to point up the contradictions inherent then – and now – in the means chosen to deal with the situation at hand (and one might point to fact that this predated direct rule).

His death, in some ways, also sat within the archetype of the young male revolutionary (he was only in his mid-20s – although perhaps Deadly Divisions overstates it when it describes him as ‘the nearest thing…to a Che Guevera figure’) cut down in his prime. He had been ordered by the OIRA to remain in Dublin after a sequence of actions he was involved in. He returned to Belfast, was spotted by the RUC who relayed the information to the Parachute Regiment. During a confrontation and chase with soldiers the unarmed McCann was shot dead. Ten spent cartridges were counted near his body by a local shop keeper, indicating that this was arguably had the hallmarks of a ‘shoot to kill’ incident.

It’s not unreasonable, I think, to suggest that in this imagery one can see the clear suggestion of a future that would lead to the establishment of the IRSP and INLA. The symbolism of the gun against the Starry Plough, the reference to the “Soldier of the People”, even in a sense the way in which the soldier becomes autonomous from the people, the vanguard, the individual fighting on behalf of those same people. But it also, curiously, contains within it an explanation of just why that route was abandoned by OSF, why it might be difficult to present any such actions as more than rooted in a single community and how it could be necessary to transcend that iconography in favour of one which genuinely reached out.

There’s a lot of talk about how PSF simply took the OSF/WP line. But in truth both strategies failed. An armed campaign of itself was too limited, too contradictory, to provide a clear way forward in the North in a context where national allegiance meant every action would be painted as effectively sectarian. The attempts to construct some sort of political alliance across the working class was equally futile. Perhaps the only strategy remaining was to start to deal with Unionism as it actually is and hope that that might lead to some sort of rapprochement. We’ll see if that will one day be added to the list of failed approaches.

In “Deadly Divisions” the story is recounted of how some believed that the image of McCann as romantic revolutionary was exploited by OSF. One individual alleged that in the weeks prior to McCann being shot ‘he noticed that the famous Inglis Bakery poster had been taken down’, although intriguingly it is also noted that ‘whatever the people in the Dublin head office might have thought of McCann’s famous picture, it remained hanging in the main hall of the Officials’ Belfast headquarters in Cyprus Street until 1982′. Logic might dictate that the armed struggle was, after the initial eruption in the North, a cul-de-sac, but emotion and history have their own momentum.

According to wiki a plaque was unveiled at the location of his death in Joy Street in the Markets in 1997 where representatives of various groups including the WP, PSF and the IRSP were in attendance. That must have been quite a meeting.

Mind you, returning to yankinulsters archive, what about this then? A poster for Sinn Féin from circa 1994. Clearly the print and design budget was being conserved the day it was commissioned.

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Socialist Republican and Feminist Máirin Keegan. October 16, 2020

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
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Via The Irish Republican Marxist History Project

Socialist Republican and Feminist Máirin Keegan.

Máirin Keegan was a leading member of the Revolutionary Marxist Group, the Irish section of the Fourth International and was also involved with the left wing Republican organisation Saor Éire. She was a lively and very likeable person, with an engaging personality. Bob Purdie, May 2013. (1)

There should be a plaque on an old Georgian house beside the canal at Harold’s Cross in Dublin, to Máirin Keegan who was a woman ahead of her time in an Ireland of traditional conservative values. We see this in the choices she made both in her personal and political life. Máirin was in Paris during the student revolt of 1968, she was on the executive of Saor Éire and was also appointed as secretary to Bernadette Devlin MP. She worked too with the Irish Civil Liberties League, the Labour Party and the Dublin Young Socialists.

Keagan was born on 8th, December 1931 to Mary (Kelleher) and Thomas Keegan, who was an Irish War of Independence veteran, at 5, Parnell Road, Harold’s Cross. She was the eldest of three sisters and one brother. After winning a scholarship for secondary education she was educated at St. Joseph’s Secondary School on Eccles Street. During an age when working-people, received no schooling beyond primary level until the introduction of free education in 1967. After her Leaving Certificate Keagan worked in the Department of Customs and Excise in the Free State civil service, where she met and later married Michael Walsh.

Her life is the story of political development from the idealistic form of nationalism to that of a dedicated Marxist. She began and always remained in the Gaelic League. Over time she became dissatisfied with the purely cultural and apolitical outlook of the body. In 1962 she left Dublin for London and it was here that Máirin saw for herself the need for political and socialist activity if ever her cultural aims were to be achieved. She began to examine the various left-wing movements of the time and rejected in turn both Clann na hEireann and the Connolly Association.(2)

Subsequently joining Géry Lawless and Paddy Healy’s London-based Trotskyist Irish Workers Group, it was a decision that would change her life forever. The membership of the IWG included Liam Daltun, Anne Murphy, Sean Morrissey and Frank Keane, a former OC of the Dublin Brigade of the IRA. Máirín would go on to work with revolutionary movements in Paris, Corsica and elsewhere. Along with Géry Lawless she took part in the four-day civil rights march organised by People’s Democracy (PD) from Belfast to Derry in 1969, that was brutally attacked by loyalists at Burntollet.

On her return to Dublin in the late 1960s she worked with Rayner O’Connor Lysaght, who married her sister Áine and Peter Graham from the Young Socialists. She participated in establishing the Irish Section of the Fourth International. What’s more, the Young Socialist’s including Keegan and Eamonn McCann interrupted the premiere of A State of Chassis, a political satirical revue at Dublin’s Peacock Theatre on 16th, September 1970. The protesters considered the revue’s portrayal of the situation in the north of Ireland offensive. Máirin claimed the next night we were refused admission when we went to the entrance to collect for the Butch Roche Defence Fund, but we found the door locked. “Tomás MacAnna director of the revue, left the performance to tell me that we could collect money outside the theatre. MacAnna was also prepared to an open forum to discuss the whole situation, such a forum was deemed acceptable to the protesting group”.

It is worth noting that Máirin Keegan procured two CS gas grenades that Butch Roche threw onto the floor of the House of Commons in 1970 to give British MPs a taste of the gas they were unleashing on protesters in Belfast and Derry. She had suggested to Roche that they mount a publicity campaign to highlight the use of CS gas, because they were convinced it had done considerable harm. (The British army first used the gas in April 1970 when they indiscriminately fired 104 gas canisters into Ballymurphy in West Belfast.)

Welcomed guest at the Keegan’s home on Parnell Road during this era; included figures such as Géry Lawless, Liam Walsh, Bob Purdie, Joe Dillon, Charlie O’Neill, Butch Roche, Peter Graham and Charlie Bird.

During this period, Máirín became involved in Saor Éire Action Group and saw this as complementary to her involvement with the Fourth International. She would later provide a silhouetted interview to British television as a representative of Saor Éire defending the actions of this armed group. Saor Éire was set up in the late 1960s and was distinguishable from other Republican organisations at the time through its politics which leaned explicitly towards the international Trotskyist movement of the Fourth International.

In a tragic turn of events a premature bomb explosion killed Liam Walsh on 13 October 1970 and also injured Martin Casey. Walsh, Casey and Máirín had been examining the device at the rear of McKee Army Base, off Blackhorse Avenue in Dublin. Though she survived the explosion apparently unhurt, it is believed that the shock triggered the revival of the cancer that would kill her fifteen months later.(3) Prior to this action, together with Peter Graham and Liam Daltun, she was instrumental in the Frank Keane Defence Committee that held demonstrations and pickets for his release. Keane, was subsequently acquitted for his alleged involvement in a 1970 bank raid in Dublin in which a member of the Garda was shot dead.

On 25th, October 1971 her comrade Peter Graham was assassinated in a flat in the Stephen’s Green area of Dublin. He was the founder and chairperson of the Young Socialists and was recruited into Saor Éire by Frank Keane, the National Organiser of the group. The funeral oration was delivered by Tariq Ali, of the International Marxist Group (IMG) the British section of the Fourth International.

Less than three months later Máirín passed away from cancer on 7th, January 1972. During the removal at St. Bernadette’s church, Clogher Road a volley of three shots was fired by Saor Éire in a salute over her coffin, which was draped in the Red Flag of the Fourth International and the Starry Plough. Several hundred people including Bernadette Devlin, Bob Purdie (IMG) and Marie MacMahon (PD) walked in the cortege that halted at 5, Parnell Road for a minute’s silence, while a lone piper played a lament. Showing the threat the state considered her to be, hundreds of Garda surrounded the mourners at the graveside in Mount Jerome cemetery.

The graveside oration was given by Rayner Lysaght who declared, in May 1968 in Paris, Keegan took part in the struggle of the workers and students which had opened up a new era of working class revolution. Back in Ireland In 1969 as a member the Citizens Committee and more importantly Saor Éire, she gave aid to the national revolution that had been developing in the north of Ireland. He also recalled that after the assassination of Peter Graham she was appointed the representative of the Fourth International in Ireland. Following the oration several verses of The Internationale were sung and the clenched fist salute was given.

On the 25th anniversary of her death a headstone was unveiled in March 1997. Beginning with a procession from Mount Jerome cemetery gates preceded by a woman carrying the Irish tricolour and two men carrying the Starry Plough and the Red Flag of the Fourth International. The proceedings were chaired by Liam Sutcliffe famous for the blowing up Nelson’s Column, with Frank Keane giving the oration. He said” Like James Connolly, Máirín Keegan’s goal was an Irish Socialist Republic. Like James Connolly too, she saw that capitalism is universal, and that this goal has to be part of a match in which victory can be assured only through a worldwide system of Socialist Republics”. The Last Post was played and Kevin Keating laid a wreath on behalf of the Irish section of the Fourth International. The wreath on behalf of the Máirín Keegan Memorial Committee was laid by Treasa Keegan.

No honest person, if intelligent, and no intelligent person, if honest. Will consider that anything given to the Socialist movement is a sacrifice. It is no sacrifice at all to invest our all time, wealth, knowledge; and all else so as to leave our children the estate of the socialist or co-operative commonwealth. Daniel De Leon’s quoit inscribed on Máirín Keegan’s headstone.

Footnotes.

  1. The “I remember” series of essays written by Bob Purdie 1940-2014. Purdie a former member of the International Marxist Group wrote several autobiographical essays on his Facebook page.
  2. Red Mole 24, January 1972, paper of the International Marxist Group the British section of the Fourth International.
  3. Rayner O’Connor Lysaght comment, Photos from the 1970 funeral of Liam Walsh. June 2013, Come Here to Me.
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