Archive for the ‘Ireland’ Category

Constance de Markievicz, in Irish Citizen Army uniform

by Philip Ferguson

Today (Feb 4) marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of the first woman elected to the British parliament! This was in the general election of December 1918, at the end of WW1. And no, she was not a Tory reactionary, but an Irish revolutionary – Constance Markievicz.

She was in jail at the time in London.

She had been second-in-command lof the insurrectionary forces at Stephen’s Green during the 1916 Rebellion in Dublin and, among other things, performed valuable sniper duties; after the surrender she was tried by court-martial and sentenced to death, commuted to penal servitidue for life on account of her being a woman.

The British were subsequently forced to release the prisoners, from the end of 1916 to mid-1917. Considered one of the hardest of the hard-core, she was in the very last group of prisoners to be released, returning to an ecstatic welcome in Dublin.

In May 1918 she was arrested for sedition and again imprisoned in England. It was here that she ran for parliament.

She stood on a platform of independence and radical social change in Ireland and not taking her seat at Westminster if elected.

In that election, 73 seats were won by people who said they wouldn’t take their seat at Westminster if elected.  A majority of them were in prison or ‘on the run’.

(These people won a majority of the seats in (more…)

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An important victory for workers at Ryanair has lessons for workers in this country, especially those employed by multinational companies. . .

Workers have won important victory by using militant tactics, but the war is far from over. . .

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary once declared once that Hell would freeze over before he would allow a trade union in to Ryanair.  The sight of him having to eat his words is indeed enough to bring a glow to the heart of any class conscious worker. At the company AGM just a few months ago O’Leary gloated that “I don’t even know how there would be industrial action in Ryanair. . . There isn’t a union!”  So how then was this victory achieved?

Solidarity

The pilots and crew’s struggle with Ryanair is a lesson in what constitutes effective trade unionism. On the ground activism, self-organisation and above all practical solidarity, in this case international solidarity.  It was this which put ‘the skids’ under the self professed “tough guy” of Irish industrial relations.

The workforce, welded together by the Europe-wide airline network, began to flex its considerable muscle on the back of (more…)

by Phil Duncan

The postal plebiscite in Australia on gay marriage has returned almost exactly the same result as the actual referendum in the south of Ireland in 2015. Basically 62% Yes, 38% No.

The Yes vote across the ditch was a tiny fraction below the Yes vote in Ireland and the No vote there was a tiny fraction above the No vote in Ireland.  Also, in Ireland it was a binding referendum; in Australia it was just a plebiscite.  Nevertheless it seems that by the New Year gay women and men will have the same right to marry as straight women and men.

It’s a victory for human progress and equality.

But it is also a sign that the ruling class, certainly in the imperialist heartlands, has no interest in continuing to discriminate against gay women and men. It’s not just that the progessive movement is pushing for marriage equality; the reality is that they are pushing against an already-opening door.

It’s all a long way from the early days of the gay liberation movement.

Just a few decades ago Australian cops were (more…)

Liam: behind him is a newspaper from 1966 on the destruction of Nelson’s Pillar and a picture of Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne

Liam Sutcliffe, a veteran socialist-republican, died at home in Dublin last Friday.  His funeral was held on Wednesday morning (Irish time).  Liam was 84 at the time of his death.

Comrade Sutcliffe was a veteran of Operation Harvest (the “Border Campaign”) of 1956-62.

He played the key role in Operation Humpty-Dumpty, the blowing up of Nelson’s Pillar in O’Connell Street, Dublin, a stark symbol of British imperial power, in 1966.  The Pillar had dominated the city’s central boulevard for 157 years.

Liam also took part in helping organise defence of nationalist working class ghettoes in Belfast during the pogrom at the end of the 1960s.

In the early 1970s, he was a prominent member of the marxist-republican group Saor Eire.

Fellow fighters during the Border Campaign: Richard Behal, Charlie Murphy and Jim Lane, at the funeral

Hundreds of people – the Irish Times estimated 800 – attended cde Sutcliffe’s funeral.  Members of one of Ireland’s leading musical acts, The High Kings, performed several songs, including “Dublin the rare aul’ Times”.  Seven pipers played “The Dawning of the Day”.  By the grave three veterans of the struggle for Irish freedom sang “Boolavogue”, a famus ballad about the great rebellion of 1798.

Material on Liam appears over on The Irish Revolution site:

Liam Sutcliffe: a revolutionary life

Filmed interview with Liam from several years ago

There is also a good report on the funeral in the Irish Times, a paper not usually noted for being sympathetic to revolutionary republicanism – here.

by Phil Duncan

This coming Monday (October 9) marks the 50th anniversary of the execution of the legendary Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara.

Che, a leader of the Cuban revolution, was captured in Bolivia where he was leading a guerrilla struggle against the dictatorship; rather than put him on trial the Bolivian dictatorship, in cahoots with Washington, decided to execute him.

He was shot dead, his hands were cut off and his corpse was buried in an unmarked grave.  It wasn’t until 1997, thrity years later, that the Cuban government was able to retrieve his remains and take them back to Cuba, where Che is a national hero.

Che was hugely popular in his lifetime, inspiring radicals, especially the younger generation, all over the world.

One of the organisations marking the 50th anniversary of Che’s execution is An Post, the postal service of the southern Irish state.  On October 5 (more…)

Police violence against locked-out workers sparked the formation of a workers’ militia

Constance Markievicz, founder of first republican paramilitary organisation of 1900s and a founding leader of the workers’ militia

 

by Philip Ferguson*

Described by Lenin as the world’s first Red Army, the Irish Citizen Army was formed by members of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union and other trade unionists in Dublin in August 1913.  Socialist and therefore also republican, the ICA was not, however, the first working class paramilitary organisation to be formed in Ireland in Ireland in the early 1900s.  That honour goes to Fianna Eireann, a predominantly working class youth organisation founded by Constance, Countess Markievicz who would go on to be a key figure in the workers’ militia.

The Fianna

James Larkin and James Connolly

Markievicz, a militant left-wing republican, was moved to form the Fianna in August 1909 for two reasons.

One was that, while new to Irish republicanism – she had thrown herself into it just the year before – she had already decided that any serious political movement for Irish freedom would, sooner or later, have to confront Britain in arms.  Her reading of Irish history had taught her that if you built a serious political movement, at some point the British state would confront you with its military force.  Unless you were armed and prepared to fight, your movement would end in ignominy, confusion and demoralisation.

The other reason – and this was the immediate factor in the formation of the Fianna – was the arrival of Baden-Powell in Ireland to start an Irish wing of his boy scouts movement.  Markievicz noted that his aim was to get Irish youth to support the British empire and oppose the liberation of their own country and their own class, the working class.  Her and friends such as Helena Moloney went recruiting for na Fianna in working class areas of Dublin.

Having come from the aristocracy, Markievicz knew about shooting and had a great interest in things military.  She wrote the Fianna handbook, taught the boys to drill and to shoot and, later, how to blow things up.  The Fianna were also sent out to rough up the Boy Scouts.  This ‘ruffianism’ was guided by two ideas: (more…)

The retirement of southern Irish taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny several months ago led to Leo Varadkar taking his place.  Varadkar is young, gay and his father is an Indian immigrant to Ireland.  Varadkar’s victory in the leadership contest in the Fine Gael party and assumption of the role of prime minister has been widely hailed as some kind of victory for gay rights and anti-racism.  Varadkar, however, is a committed anti-working class politician, with no track record of campaigning for either gay or migrant rights.  Varadkar  is no friend of the oppressed and exploited – quite the contrary.  The article is taken from the Irish Socialist Democracy website here, where it appeared on June 30.  It is a timely reminder that people need to be judged by their politics rather than being lauded because they are gay and/or female and/or brown.

The election of Leo Varadkar as Fine Gael leader – and his assumption of the role of Taoiseach – has been hailed as a watershed event in Ireland.  This perspective – which is particularity prevalent in international media coverage – carries the assumption that identity is the overriding factor in contemporary politics.  Within this framework the election of a relatively young gay man of ethnic migrant descent – standing in stark contrast to the profile of leaders that went before – is indeed a seminal event.  The other assumption attached to this identity-centred perspective is that a person from such a background will have a more liberal approach to politics.  However, a consideration of the record of Leo Varadkar quickly debunks such assumptions.      

Right-wing

Despite his relative youth, Varadkar is a long standing member of Fine Gael (he claims to have joined as a 17 year old) – the most conservative party in the state – and has consistently occupied the most right-wing positions on a range of issues, including those related to sexuality and race.  In 2010 he opposed the Civil Partnership Bill and also raised concerns over the prospect of gay couples  (more…)