Friday, March 10, 2006

From 'AP/RN' , August 10th , 1989 .
(No 'By-Line')

Instead of leading the opposition to the 1921 Treaty of Surrender on a principled basis and defending the Republic , Eamon de Valera instead put forward another proposal for compromise with Britain , an alternative treaty which ever afterwards was known as 'Document Number Two' .

This served to weaken the Republican case once more and as a result the forces who supported the new Free State regime faced a divided opposition : throughout the Civil War there was no strong single Republican leadership .

De Valera's position at this time was vitally important as it pointed to the direction in which he would lead in the years ahead : he remained committed to his 'Document Number Two' 'solution' which entailed revision of the Treaty - he did not play an active part in the Civil War but was seen as 'the leader of the Republicans' , and was vilified by the Free State government , press and Catholic hierarchy .......

1913 : 75 YEARS AFTER THE LOCK-OUT .......
From 'Liberty News' , March/April 1988 .
(No 'By-Line' )

Questions were raised in the British House of Commons over the 31 August 1913 baton-charge by the police on the streets of Dublin and the matter was debated at the British Trade Union Conference . Violence was not new for the beleaguered workers , however , as scabs were protected and pickets frequently attacked : James Nolan , James (John) Byrne and Alice Brady paid for their loyalty to the workers' cause with their lives .

Support soon came on foot of the distress but Jim Larkin's 'Fiery Cross' crusade in Britain , where he preached the 'Divine Mission of Discontent' , generated rank and file rather than official reaction and assistance was limited to food and material support rather than sympathetic industrial action . James Connolly , now co-ordinating industrial matters , drew the port of Dublin shut as 'tight as a drum' and both sides settled for a long attritional war through the winter with the bosses relying on starvation and the workers on the simple message of ' Each for all and all for each ! '

The Trade Union Council 'Dublin Food Fund' and other support marshalled by the Dublin Trades Council sustained the workers and there can have been few occasions as emotive as the landing of the food ships on the quays .......

A poem by Thomas Kinsella , written after Bloody Sunday .
From 'IRIS' magazine , March 1983 .

Let them Out ! At least let in
a breath or two of oxygen ,
so they may settle down for good
and mix themselves in the common blood .

We all are what we are , and that
is mongrel pure . What nation's not ,
where any stranger hung his hat
and seized a lover where she sat ?

He ceased and faded . Zephyr blew ,
and all the others faded too .
I stood like a ghost - my fingers strayed
along the fatal barricade .
The gentle rainfall drifting down
over Colmcille's town
could not refresh , only distil ,
in silent grief from hill to hill .
(MONDAY , 13 March : 'Plus Ca Change - Haughey and Parnell' , from 1998 .)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

From 'AP/RN' , August 10th , 1989 .
(No 'By-Line')

Assuming the Presidency of Sinn Fein and the Irish Volunteers in 1917 , Eamon de Valera became head of the Dail Eireann government in 1919 ; his reputation was enhanced by his tour of the United States raising support for the struggle at home .

While in the United States , de Valera was widely described as 'President of the Irish Republic' : he was seen internationally as the public face of the Irish independence struggle . But his stand for the Republic of which he was supposed to be 'President' was less than firm ; in an interview with the 'Westminster Gazette' newspaper in 1920 he suggested that the Dail might accept less than complete independence from Britain and compared the possible relationship between Ireland and the British 'Empire' with that between the United States and the Cuban Republic .

To do so weakened the Republican case considerably at the height of the Black and Tan war - it gave 'ammunition' to those who went on to support the Treaty of Surrender 1921 , and it also exposed the fact that de Valera himself was never a convinced Republican . This was to become clear again when the Treaty was signed under threat of "...immediate and terrible war.. " in December 1921 .......

1913 : 75 YEARS AFTER THE LOCK-OUT .......
From 'Liberty News' , March/April 1988 .
(No 'By-Line' )

Under the calculating leadership of William Martin Murphy , owner of the 'Irish Independent' newspaper and controller of the Dublin Tramways Company , over 400 employers combined in the 'Dublin Employers' Federation' to deny the same right of combination to the city's underprivileged . The 'target' was the threat , in class terms , of the message of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union so marvellously articulated by Jim Larkin's street oratory .

The crunch came on August 15 , 1913 , when William Martin Murphy offered the 'Independent' newspaper's 'Despatch Department' the choice of union - or job : they chose the Union , and were fired ! Solidarity action saw the dispute escalate with further dismissals in Eason's and on the trams .

The now confident employers issued the infamous 'document' , locking out any worker that refused to sign a pledge to disown the ITGWU . By the end of September 1913 , over 20,000 workers were locked out . On 31 August 1913 , the police attacked an innocent crowd gathered to hear Jim Larkin address them in O' Connell Street , Dublin ; the meeting had been banned by the authorities , and the ITGWU had transferred their activities to their social premises in Croydon Park , Clontarf , Dublin .

Scores were injured in the baton charge and British public opinion was shocked at the scenes .......

A poem by Thomas Kinsella , written after Bloody Sunday .
From 'IRIS' magazine , March 1983 .

Who could love them ? God above them ...
'Yet pity is akin to love' , the thirteenth corpse beside him said ,
smiling in its bloody head , 'and though there's reason for alarm
in dourness and a lack of charm
their cursed plight calls out for patience . '

They - even they - with other nations
have a place , if we can find it .
Love our changeling ! Guard and mind it -
doomed from birth , a cursed heir ,
theirs is the hardest lot to bear , yet not impossible , I swear ,
if England would but clear the air
and brood at home on her disgrace -
everything to its own place .

Face their walls of dole and fear
and be of reasonable cheer -
good men every day inherit
Father's foulness with the spirit :
purge the filth and do not stir it !

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

From 'AP/RN' , August 10th , 1989 .
(No 'By-Line')

In Ireland in the late 1960's , Sean Lemass's 'economic miracle' was proving to be a mirage : unemployment and emigration soared again .

The new post de Valera , post Lemass Fianna Fail had a deep identity and leadership crisis : it was all to culminate in 1989 with the entry of the party into a coalition for the first time in its history . That most 'sacred' Fianna Fail 'principle' of all - its divine 'right' to rule alone , as the only party representing the 'national' interest - joined all the abandoned Fianna Fail 'principles' of decades on the rubbish heap .

It is impossible to understand Fianna Fail without understanding the politics of de Valera : often described as an 'enigma' and an almost mythical or mystical figure , his aura pervaded the life of the State and gave Fianna Fail its essential character . In fact , behind the 'mask' , de Valera was a skilled politician who used the loyalty he instilled in his supporters to build a strong centrally controlled party which had no equal in the country .

His position of leadership in the National struggle began almost by chance because of the fact that he was the senior surviving commander of the Republican forces in the 1916 Rising .......

1913 : 75 YEARS AFTER THE LOCK-OUT .......
From 'Liberty News' , March/April 1988 .
(No 'By-Line' )

Dublin lacked an industrial base , and work in 1913 was generally of a casual nature with poor trade union organisation and slave wages ; a third of the city's teeming population inhabited the city centre tenement slums - the overcrowding , squalor and inadequate sanitation combined with poor diet to give Dublin one of the highest infant death rates in Europe .

Violence and prostitution were further evidence of the degraded but desperate condition of many of the population . It was , in many ways , an unlikely seed-bed for trade-unionism : the social system was typified by insecurity of employment , personal daily struggles for survival and the frequent indifference of the longer established , but conservative , craft trade unions . The 'New Unionism' , marked by its organisation of the unskilled and socialist zeal , had enjoyed a brief flourish in Dublin of the 1890's but the odds were heavily stacked against permanent success and many union organisations had become moribund .

With James Larkin's arrival in Ireland as Organiser for the National Union of Dock Labourers the waterfront workers rose again , firstly in Belfast in 1907 and subsequently in other Irish ports . Disagreement with the National Union of Dock Labourers ' Liverpool Executive led to Larkin's suspension and the launch of a specialist Dublin-based unskilled workers union , the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union : from the beginning the new union proclaimed in its rule book a wide programme of industrial and political agitation to change society in the interests of the Irish working class . The employers would not be silent observers .......

A poem by Thomas Kinsella , written after Bloody Sunday .
From 'IRIS' magazine , March 1983 .

Bloody sputum filled his throat ,
he stopped and coughed to clear it out ,
and finished , with his eyes a-glow :
'You came , you saw , you conquered ... So .
You gorged - and it was time to go .

Good riddance ! We'd forget - released -
but for the rubbish of your feast :
the slops and scraps that fell to earth
and sprang to arms in dragon birth .

Sashed and bowler-hatted , glum ,
Apprentices of fife and drum ,
high and dry , abandoned guards
of dismal streets and empty yards ,
drilled at the codeword 'True Religion'
to strut and mutter like a pigeon -
"Not An Inch-Up The Queen !" :
Who use their walls like a latrine
for scribbled magic - at their call ,
straight from the nearest music-hall ,
Pope and Devil intertwine ,
two cardboard kings appear , and join
in one more battle by the Boyne !

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

From 'AP/RN' , August 10th , 1989 .
(No 'By-Line')

De Valera's own history and reputation and his verbalising about partition ('1169...' Comment - sounds familiar !) deceived the working class and small farmers ; Fianna Fail sought to reflect their republican aspirations in words while the deeds of its leaders belied all the rhetoric ( '1169...' Comment - ...definitely sounds familiar .. ! ) .

Thus Fianna Fail governments could be anti-British without ever really threatening British interests in Ireland ; ('1169....' Comment - Did the then Fianna Fail organisation ever call on Westminster to [re-]establish a Six County parliament and beseech the British PM to implement British policy in the Six Counties , as some 'republicans' are now doing ... ?) while the republican-sounding rhetoric flowed , de Valera was jailing and executing Republicans and suppressing the IRA with a ruthlessness that matched the regime he opposed during the Civil War .

Under the decades of Fianna Fail rule partition was actually entrenched ; the farm labourers and smallholders who formed the bedrock of Fianna Fail support were decimated as a class and the urban workers faced unrelenting poverty and hardship - economic underdevelopment and mismanagement caused widespread unemployment and emigration which , by the time de Valera finally retired from active politics in 1959 , had reached epidemic proportions . The second era in the history of Fianna Fail was begun with a brief period of economic growth and deceptive prosperity under the government of Sean Lemass , de Valera's successor : for most of the 1960's the 'honeymoon' continued .

Then Fianna Fail entered what was to become a period of prolonged crisis : the war in the North of Ireland exploded and exposed both its republican lip-service and its bitter internal rivalries .......

From 'Liberty News' , March/April 1988 .
(No 'By-Line' )

1913 is regarded as the foundation stone of the modern Dublin labour movement ; it was an epic , heroic struggle that lends itself to dramatic memory and interpretation as evidenced by James Plunkett's play 'The Risen People' and the subsequent novel 'Strumpet City' .

It is also , increasingly perhaps , regarded as historic in the sense that its immediate relevance is diminishing as contemporary society changes and loses its direct links with the slums , general labourers , pawn shops and grinding poverty of the old Dublin : this is mistaken , for we in the labour movement of today * should continue to recall 1913 both for the sacrifices made on our behalf but also for the political victories that the struggle secured and which are being slyly but surely eroded by a rampant 'New Right' in its attempt to de-unionise and de-politicise Irish society .......
(* - '1169...' Comment : definitely NOT this crowd of political self-servers .)

A poem by Thomas Kinsella , written after Bloody Sunday .
From 'IRIS' magazine , March 1983 .

The game runs out of room at last - A people rises from its past ,
the going gets unduly tough , and you have (surely...?) had enough .

The time has come to yield your place
with condescending show of grace :
an Empire-builder handing on .

We reap the ruin when you've gone ,
all your errors heaped behind you :
promises that do not bind you - hopes in conflict ,
cramped commissions - faiths exploited , and traditions .

Monday, March 06, 2006

From 'AP/RN' , August 10th , 1989 .
(No 'By-Line')

For most of the life of the 26-County State one party has completely dominated politics there : it has held office for a total of over 40 years and has never lost two elections in a row and , on two occasions , it ruled for a 16 year stretch . For most of its existence the party and the State were dominated , and even formed , by the ideas of one man : the man was Eamon de Valera and the party was Fianna Fail .

The history of Fianna Fail is divided into two distinct eras : the first saw its emergence as the political creation of de Valera and its rise to power with the overwhelming support of workers and small farmers on a Republican platform - through consummate political skill de Valera used the populism of his party to create a machine built for winning elections and guaranteeing that Fianna Fail would remain the only party capable of forming a government on its own ; like all such groups and political leaders which use populism to rise to power Fianna Fail , once power was achieved and consolidated , betrayed those who had given it birth ('1169.....' Comment - sounds familiar) .

The conservatism of de Valera himself , and the big business and big farmer interests who backed Fianna Fail as soon as they felt it safe to do so , combined to make the party a right-wing force which ultimately held back progress towards both national and social freedom : the great advantage on its side was that it managed to retain broad popular support at election after election ('1169 ....' Comment - again : sounds familiar) - central to that success was Fianna Fail's attitude to the national question .......

ByMartin Calligan.
(No year of publication.)

There's a sacred spot in Dublin
It's a place called Arbour Hill ,
Where sleeps our noble Martyrs ,
Their message rings out still .

To you their message calling ,
As called that Easter day ,
When they flew the flag of Freedom
And proclaimed the IRA .

They march , these men , in Dublin -
And for Ireland struck a blow ,
They raised the flag of Freedom
O'er Dublin's G.P.O.

Traitors tried to sell that Cause ;
Traitors they may be ,
But Connolly had one in mind ,
Old Ireland's Liberty -
They followed Tone and Emmet
And faced a Martyr's grave ,
That you may take their message
If our Nation we must save .

Six counties subjected
Are held by England still -
Wake up and show devotion
For the men of Arbour Hill !
(Tomorrow : '1913 - 75 YEARS AFTER THE LOCK-OUT' . From 1988)

A poem by Thomas Kinsella , written after Bloody Sunday .
From 'IRIS' magazine , March 1983 .

Your democracy insists you must'nt talk with terrorists !
White and yellow , black and blue ,
have learnt their history from you :
divide and ruin , muddle through - not principled , but politic .

In strength , perfidious ; weak , a trick
to make good men a trifle sick -
we speak in wounds : behold , this mess ;
my curse upon your politesse .

Another ghost stood forth , and wet
dead lips that had not spoken yet :
" My curse on the cunning and the bland ,
on gentlemen who loot a land -
they do not care to understand -who keep the natives on their paws
with ready lash and rotten laws .

Then if the beasts erupt in rage
give them a slightly larger cage -
and , in scorn and fear combined ,
turn them against their own kind .