SWIM PACKS OUT (not in...!)
Those that sat down together in early September 1976 to tighten-up the then 'hit-and-miss' affair were a dedicated team who fully understood that to fail in their business would not only bring derision on them and the issue they sought to highlight, but would give their enemy a publicity coup which they would be keen to exploit. With that in mind, the team persevered - favours were called-in, guarantees were secured, provisions obtained and word dispatched to like-minded individuals in that part of Dublin. At the appointed time on the agreed day - 12 Noon, Christmas Day 1976 - a soon-to-be 40-years-young event was 'born' - the CABHAIR Christmas Day Swim is, thankfully, still going strong and will be, as mentioned, 40-years-young on December 25th next, an occasion which will be marked by a special presentation to each swimmer -
We'll be at the 3rd Lock of the Grand Canal in Inchicore, Dublin, on Christmas Day, from about 10am until about 1pm and, if you're in the area, drop by and say hello, have a mince pie, pull a cracker or two, and have a glass of 'lemonade'. And if you're feeling rough and maybe haven't fully woke yourself up, we can help you with that :
Hope to see you at the 3rd Lock in Inchicore, Dublin , on Christmas Day 2016!
ON THIS DATE (21ST DECEMBER) 95 YEARS AGO : FERMANAGH COUNTY COUNCIL REFUSES TO RECOGNISE "THE PARTITION PARLIAMENT IN BELFAST..."
Fermanagh council offices (pictured, left) issued the following statement on this date - 21st December - in 1921 : "We, the County Council of Fermanagh, in view of the expressed desire of a large majority of people in this county, do not recognise the partition parliament in Belfast and do hereby direct our Secretary to hold no further communications with either Belfast or British Local Government Departments, and we pledge our allegiance to Dáil Éireann."
Short, sharp, and to the point. And it was rightly seen by 'Sir' Richard Dawson Bates, the Stormont 'Minister for Home Affairs' (who was a solicitor by trade and was also Secretary of the 'Ulster Unionist Council', a position he had held since 1905) wasn't impressed. He had 'made his name' in that same year (1921) when, at 44 years of age, he ordered the RIC to close down the Offices of Tyrone County Council as he didn't like the way they were doing their business - that body had declared its allegiance to the rebel Dail Éireann (32 County body)! On the 6th December that year (1921), 'Sir' Bates seen to it that a 'Local Government (Emergency Powers) Bill' had been passed into 'law' ; that new 'law' stated that "...the Ministry, in the event of any of the local authorities refusing to function or refusing to carry out the duties imposed on them under the Local Government Acts, can dissolve such authority and in its place appoint a Commission to carry on the duties of such authority."
Bates instructed the RIC to ready themselves - he assembled a raiding-party and stormed the offices of Fermanagh County Council ; the building was seized, the Council Officials were expelled and the institution itself was dissolved. In the following four months (ie up to April 1922), Bates and his RIC raiding-party were kept busy ; Armagh, Keady and Newry Urban Councils, Downpatrick Town Commissioners, Cookstown, Downpatrick, Kilkeel, Lisnaskea, Strabane, Magherafelt and Newry No. 1 and No. 2 Rural Councils and a number of Boards of Poor Law Guardians had all been dissolved and pro-Stormont 'Commissioners' appointed to carry out their functions.
The people of those areas (ie the voters) were not asked their opinion on whether their council should be closed down or not, nor were they asked if they agreed with the 'appointment' of a new 'Commissioner' ; in all cases, the new 'boss' understood what his job was - to do as instructed by 'Sir' Bates and his bigoted colleagues in Stormont. In actual fact, the new 'Commissioner' for Armagh and Keady Councils, for instance, was a Colonel Waring, who later 'progressed' through the ranks to become a County Commandant of the 'B' Specials, an indication of the manner in which Westminster intended to 'govern' that part of Ireland - by destroying democratic institutions and imposing its own people and administrations in power in place of same, a scenario which it continues with to this day.
PROSE AND CONS.
Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.
First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O'Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.
SISTER CAOIMHÍN. (By Kevin Lynch.)
Always a big smile
a kind gesture or thought.
God on her side
she knows no limits.
In the face of intolerance
her face is tolerance.
In the face of retribution
her face is forgiveness.
Street-smart and wise
she wonders why!
Then only, child, how can I help
Ah, that's our sister, our angel,
she's one of our own.
(Next - 'The Team I Worship' , by Harry Melia.)
ON THIS DATE (21ST DECEMBER) 32 YEARS AGO : BODY OF MISSING IRA VOLUNTEER FOUND.
Ciarán Fleming '...drowned in Bannagh River, near Kesh, County Fermanagh (while) escaping from a gun battle between an undercover British Army (BA) unit and an Irish Republican Army (IRA) unit. His body (was) found in the river on 21st December 1984..' (from here.) His funeral was described as '..the most gratuitously violent RUC attack of the year on any funeral. Many of the RUC had come in full riot gear of helmet, shield and body armour, to show that they were intent on violent disruption. Several times during a tense and exhausting funeral which lasted three full hours, the RUC baton-charged the mourners, which encouraged near-by children, standing on a wall, to throw stones at them in reprisal : the RUC then fired at least four plastic bullets into the funeral cortege, seriously injuring two people. During the afternoon, numerous mourners suffered bloody head wounds and one man was knocked unconscious by the RUC. Stewards were often forced to halt the proceedings because of this harassment but, despite the RUC's terror, the people stood firm and, in a twilight Bogside, three uniformed IRA Volunteers stepped out of the crowd and paid the IRA's traditional salute to their fallen comrade, as a forest of arms were raised in clenched-fist salute. Finally , thanks to the courage of thousands of nationalists, Volunteer Ciaran Fleming was laid to rest..' (from 'IRIS' magazine, October 1987.)
IRA sources that were contacted at the time by journalist Ed Moloney stated that Ciarán Fleming '...was noted for his hard line militarist republicanism. He is reputed to have backed a plan to form full-time guerrilla units or 'flying columns' based in the Republic, which would carry out four or five large scale attacks in the north a year. This approach was espoused by the militant Provisional IRA East Tyrone Brigade led by Padraig McKearney and Jim Lynagh, who wanted an escalation of the conflict to what they termed "total war". They were opposed by Kevin McKenna, the IRA Chief of Staff and by the republican leadership headed by Gerry Adams, on the grounds that actions on that scale were too big a risk and unsustainable. The IRA leadership wanted a smaller scale campaign of attrition, supplemented by political campaigning by (Provisional) Sinn Féin...' (from here.)
That "political campaigning by Provisional Sinn Féin" has seen that grouping morph into a slightly more-nationalist political party than either of the latter-day Fianna Fáil or SDLP organisations but, true to form, like Fianna Fáil and the SDLP, the Provisional Sinn Féin party has distanced itself (except, mostly, verbally) from Irish republicanism. It's an easier life, with a salary and a pension, neither of which were available when Adams and company professed to be advocates of change rather than that which they are now, and have been for almost 30 years - advocates of British accommodation in Ireland.
TRADE UNIONS AND CAPITALISM IN IRELAND....
The economic 'boom' from the mid-1960's to the early 1970's not only massively expanded trade union membership but heightened workers' social and economic aspirations, a heightening which Irish capitalism could only partially accommodate , dependent as it was on cheap labour. The response of the ICTU was to identify as its objectives full employment, prosperity and due recognition of its own status.
The ICTU increasingly adopted a corporate approach to industrial negotiations, undermining the real militancy which was often present in local areas and at the level of individual unions.
Despite major strikes right through the 1960's, notably the 1962 bus strike, the 1964 building workers' strike, and the maintenance workers' dispute in 1969, and the influx of new (nationalist) forces into the public service unions in the Six Counties the ICTU, rather than fuelling this militancy, actively suppressed it.
The introduction of a two-tier picketing policy in 1970 and the practice of 'national wage agreements' and 'social contracts' during the decade, actually led to a decrease in the living standards of industrial workers of about 12% by the end of the 1970's , as compared to a real increase in the 1960's.
ON THIS DATE (21ST DECEMBER) 220 YEARS AGO - "NEAR ENOUGH TO TOSS A BISCUIT ASHORE..."
A storm at sea had separated the lead ship , with General Hoche on board , from the rest of the fleet, but a strong head-wind prevented any of the ships from landing their troops. The Bay itself was wide open, with no British troops to offer resistance, but the wind was growing in strength, and soon became a gale-force, which forced 20 of the great French ships out of the Bay and pushed them out to sea ; the other 15 ships attempted to move up the Bay but, it was later reported, they could only manage to move about 50 yards every 8 hours. By December 22nd, 1796, only about half of the fleet had entered the Bay and French Marshal Emmanuel Grouchy, the second-in-command, decided not to disembark as he had only 6,400 men and the storm would have made a landing hazardous : "England," said Wolfe Tone, "has not had such an escape since the Armada" and, years later, W.B. Yeats wrote that "John Bull and the sea are friends..." .
The high winds were mixed with squalls of sleet and snow, but still no notable British presence to face them had materialised in the area. But - so near and yet so far - the French were still unable to land. General Hoche's men were in Bantry Bay for a week and, by now, a small force of some 400 British troops from the Bantry area were on the beach, pretending to 'shape up' to the those at sea, safe in the knowledge that the French troops could not get at them - the British 'authorities' had apparently been 'tipped-off' about the French fleet by the 'landlord' who lived in the 'big house' at the head of Bantry Bay - this man was later awarded the title of 'Lord Bantry', by the British, for his loyal 'service to The Crown'. Wolfe Tone, who was on board the ship with General Hoche, wrote in near despair of the efforts to land the soldiers at Bantry Bay - "We are now, nine o'clock, at the rendezvous appointed ; stood in for the coast till twelve, when we were near enough to toss a biscuit ashore ; at twelve tacked and stood out again, so now we have begun our cruise of five days in all its forms, and shall, in obedience to the letter of our instructions, ruin the expedition, and destroy the remnant of the French navy, with a precision and punctuality which will be truly edifying."
The ships were being pulled and pushed by the continuing storm and were forced, one by one, to cut their anchor cables and allow themselves to be pushed out of the bay and forced back to sea again. They made sail for France, dejected, one and all. Ireland lost a good friend and skilled soldier when Lazare Hoche died of fever in 1797, in Wetzlar, Germany : more fleets were organised, notwithstanding the strain on military resources, as the new French Republic came under attack from so-called monarchs and emperors throughout Europe, including the British, who hadn't forgot about the lucky escape they had on those days in December 1796.
GROWING UP IN LONG KESH...
By Jim McCann (Jean's son). For Alex Crowe, RIP - "No Probablum". Glandore Publishing, 1999.
Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the 'Frank Cahill Resource Centre', one of the founders of 'Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh', the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A'Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.
His first publication last year by Glandore was 'And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh'. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!
The screws looked over at Seán and said "Well...?" "Well what?" said Seán. "What did the Germans say to you?", asked the screw. "I can't tell you," said Seán. "Ye can't tell us? Why not?" asked the screw. "It's impossible, I just can't..." "For fuck's sake," said the screw, "go on, tell us. I don't want to be here all day." "That's too bad, mate," said Seán, "but I can't help you." "Could you not even give us a clue?" pleaded the screw. "No chance," answered Seán.
The door of the reception opened and a Senior Officer (S.O.) entered the room : "Why are them bastards out of their cubicles?" , he asked. "It's these two Germans, Sir..." replied one of the screws, "..we can't find out anything about them and these guys were giving us a hand.." "And what have you found out?", asked the S.O. "This bastard here.." said the screw, pointing to Seán, "..was talking to yer man, the German, but he won't tell us what the German said.." "Why not? What's the big secret?", asked the S.O., looking at Seán. "There is no big secret," replied Seán. "Then why won't you tell them what he said?", demanded the S.O. "I've told bucky-beard here four times aleady - I can't tell you because I haven't a clue what they said..."
The screws were flabbergasted - "But you told me you could speak German..." "...and so I can.." said Seán, "..but it's the same as the stuff you were asking him at the start.." - and, with that, the Germans busted out laughing - "..but you didn't ask me how much I knew." (MORE LATER).
OUR SECOND-LAST POST FOR 2016 -
Thanks for reading, Sharon.