Random Ramblings from a Republican
Monday, June 28, 2004
Earlier history of hungerstriking as a tool for bringing about justice

Part 2.

Fianna Fail, the Republican Party[SIC!!!], in 1939 proscribed the IRA and the jails of the Free State soon swelled with political prisoners. In 1940, prisoners in the appalling conditions of Mountjoy began a strike. The strikers included Tony D'Arcy, Sean McNeela, Thomas Grogan, Jack Plunkett, Tomas MacCutrain and Michael Traynor. A week into the protest, the prisoners were mercilessly beaten by the Free State screws.

Tony D'Arcy and Sean McNeela paid the ultimate price. They died on April 16th and 19th respectively. Shortly after, the hungerstrike was called off when the prisoners were informed that a deal had been struck with the Free State government. This apparent deal was short lived and Free State exploitation of Republicans continued.

The last hungerstriker to perish in a Free State jail was Sean McCaughey. He was a Belfast native who was O/C of the IRA's northern command in the early 1940's. He was arrested in Dublin for holding an informer (actually the COS of the IRA!). The charges were common assault and unlawful imprisonment. He was sentenced to LIFE!

An original blanketman, McCaughey refused to wear the prison clothes of Portlaoise Jail and spent nearly 5 years naked except for a blanket. He commenced his hungerstrike on April 19th, 1946 and after five days began a thirst strike as well. Under these conditions, one cannot live long. Sean died after 17 days on strike. He was rightfully buried in the Republican plot at Milltown in Belfast.

Michael Gaughan was one of the first Provisional IRA members to be imprisoned in England. He was tried and sentenced for his part in a bank raid at Old Bailey in December of 1971. Frank Stagg was tried and sentenced in November of 1973 in Coventry on an vacuous charge of conspiracy to commit explosions.

Also in November 1973, the "Belfast Ten" were tried and sentenced to life for bombings that occurred earlier in the year in England. These ten included Marian and Dolores Price, Gerry Kelly, and Hugh Feeney. These four commenced hungerstrike upon entering prison. They were brutally force-fed for two hundred and six days.

Gaughan and Stagg joined the strike on March 31st, 1974 primarily to show support for their comrades already on strike and secondly for repatriation. After 23 days refusing food, they were force-fed. This brutal practice involves sticking a thick greased tube down a person's throat and into the stomach. Often the tube enters the windpipe and it was because of this that Michael Gaughan. He became ill after the tube punctured his lung, caught pneumonia and died on June 3rd, 1974. This death caused the British establishment much shame and led to the abandonment of force-feeding as a tactic for countering hungerstrikes.

The four strikers of the "Belfast Ten" ended their strike shortly after and Stagg's ended on the 7th. Having his demands for repatriation ignored, Stagg began a second strike after being transferred from Parkhurst to Worcestershire. 10th October 1974 was the first day of Stagg's second strike. Thirty one days later he was told that he would be transferred to Long Kesh by March of 1975. He ended his strike in lieu of this deal.

In March of 1975, Gerry Kelly and Hugh Feeney were transferred to the cages of Long Kesh and the Price sisters were repatriated to Armagh Jail. But Frank Stagg remained in England. Now in Wakefield Prisoner, Frank commenced a third hungerstrike on the 14th of December 1975. He was to die after 62 days refusing food, February 12, 1976.

Free State officials had Stagg's body diverted from Dublin to Shannon airport to prevent a show of Republican sentiment in the city. The Special Branch thugs then seized his coffin and kept it in the airport for 48 hours before flying it by helicopter under guard to Robeen Church in Co. Mayo. The Special Branch prevented it from being buried in the Republican plot. Stagg was instead buried 10 metres away and his coffin was covered over top by cement to prevent it from ever being moved. Also, for six months there was a constant Special Branch presence in the cemetery.

This didn't stop the rightful thing from happening. On November 8th, 1976 a group of IRA Volunteers accompanied by a priest tunneled down under the grave and removed the coffin. They buried it in the Republican plot and had a short religious service.

Follow up information:
Overview of the 1981 Hungerstrike
Hungerstrike Commemorative Project
Overview of the 1980 Hungerstriker
Ireland's Own's Hungerstrike Page 
Saturday, June 26, 2004
Earlier history of hungerstriking as a tool for bringing about justice

The years between 1917 and 1920 involved a number of different hungerstrikes in various prisons both in Britain and in Ireland. It began with the death fast of Thomas Ashe in September of 1917. Ashe's hungerstrike was completely effective and the prisoners were granted political status. But common to British vindictiveness regarding Republicans, the prisoners' status was revoked and they were all transferred to Dundalk Jail.

Early in 1918, prominent Republican Austin Stack and a number of other prisoners in Dundalk began a second strike which was soon intensified when the POWs of Cork Jail joined the protest. Their mission was to win back their rightful political status; the reason which Ashe had died in order to bring about.

Terence MacSwiney was a part of this 1918 protest in Cork Jail and was steadfast in his strike. He is quoted as saying, "This may be a fight to the death. And we must stick to it as long as possible." Their protests were successful when prisoners began to fall ill. This shook the British establishment who wanted nothing to do with another fiasco like Ashe's death. The prisoners were all granted one month releases from prison. Their return of course never happened.

Two prisoners fell ill enough that they died soon after being released. Their names were Seamus Courtney and Aidan Gleeson.
In 1920 the Black and Tans' scourge of the countryside was raging and Republicans found themselves in prisons in great numbers. Lacking their rightful political status, they decided again to strike for their rights by refusing food. Sixty POWs took part in this strike and it drew much public attention. After a week of the strike, a general labour strike was called amongst the unions in support of the prisoners demands. This strike had the desired effect. By the 10th day of the hungerstrike the Brits and their lackies gave in and granted the hungerstrikers a general amnesty!! This date was April 20th, 1920.

Two more men died as a result of the effects of the strike. These men were Patrick Fogarty and Francis Gleeson; both of Dublin.

On August 11th, 1920, a hungerstrike began in Cork Jail which would soon be joined by Cork's Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney. After five days in Cork Jail, the O/C of the IRA's Cork No. 1 Brigade was transferred to the British prison, Brixton. He died seventy-five days later on October 25, 1920. His funeral brought the largest crowd in the history of Ireland until Bobby Sands eclipsed it more than 60 years later.

What is nearly forgotten is that two other men also starved themselves to death for justice on that strike. They were Michael Fitzgerald and Joseph Murphy, striking in Cork Jail for 67 and 76 days respectively.

A very large hungerstrike began in Mountjoy Jail in October of 1923. It involved an unknown number of Republican prisoners but the number is thought to have been well over 700 POWs. There were massive protests in support of the strike and support spread to prisons throughout the island. Men and women's prisons alike struck for better conditions and political status.

Two men died on this strike; they were Dennis Barry and Andrew Sullivan. A number of people also died much later from the long term effects of the hungerstrike, namely Joseph Lacey of Waterford who died only three weeks after ending the strike.

The results of this strike were that all female prisoners were released and a large number of males as well. Conditions were improved to an extent that made them tolerable and livable.

In a separate strike that same year, John Oliver died in Maidstone Prison in England. He was being imprisoned for his part in the Connaught Rangers mutiny in India.

(To be continued...) 
Friday, June 25, 2004
"Keep on marching, don't give up"
30 May 1981

This tribute to the determination and spirit of republican resistance of the four dead H-Block hunger-strikers - IRA Volunteers Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, and Raymond McCreesh, and INLA Volunteer Patsy O'Hara - is written by Belfast republican Jim Gibney, who had the demanding, but privileged task of regularly visiting the former three in the H-Block prison hospital during their fast to the death for political prisoner status.



But it was in the last week of each of the three hungerstrikers' lives that the full impact of the strike hit the hungerstrikers themselves, their families and myself. On my last visit with Francis, I accompanied his mother and his brother, Oliver. It was a very moving occasion. Francis was going downhill fast. His eyesight was blurred and he had to hold his hand over one eye throughout the visit. He had been violently ill that morning.

His mother threw her arms around his neck and said: "I'm the proudest mother in the world. Your family are all proud of you." She blessed him with a special cross brought from Calvary in Jerusalem and Francis tenderly kissed it. He said "I always like to see you happy." I never saw Francis alive again.

Two days later I visited Raymond. He was in pretty good shape. After leaving him I was walking down the corridor and I noticed Bobby's cell door open. I walked in and saw him lying in bed with a crucifix given to him by the Pope's envoy around his neck. His mother, father and Marcella were lined along his bed. He sensed someone else in the cell. He looked towards me. "How are you?", I asked. "Is that you, Jim?" he said, stretching out his hand. "It is, Bobby", I replied, as I clasped him. "I'm extremely weak, I'm blind, I can't see you. Tell the lads to keep their chins up. Don't be down-hearted. I'm hanging on in. I'll see this thing thru," he said. We held hands for what seemed like an eternity but probably was less than a minute, then I left.


I had a similar, shattering experience two weeks later when I visited Raymond for the last time. As I entered the hospital complex I physically shook, and as I passed the cells Bobby and Francis died in, my blood ran cold. I was tempted to look inside the cells, but out of the corner of my eye I saw a gaunt figure waving and smiling at me.

It was Patsy O'Hara. His cell door was open and he was sitting by his bed, propped up in a chair. I went to his cell door and spoke briefly to him. He was strong and in good spirits.

Raymond's condition contrasted strongly with Patsy's. He lay motionless in the bed.
For thirty seconds he did not know he had visitors. Then, when he realised, he had visitors. Then, when he realised, he had difficulty taking in the names of his visitors: "It's your Uncle Peter and Jimmy McCreesh, your cousin, and Jim Gibney," said his cousin. "Oh," said Raymond in a faint voice that trailed off into silence. We sat for a few more minutes in silence, broken finally by questions which reflected the strained mood, then a longer silence. I thought Raymond had died, his chest stopped moving and he appeared to stop breathing, but he came to ...

As the visit ended, Raymond came round a bit, shook everyone's hand strongly, and threw his arms around his Uncle Peter's neck. "Keep on marching, don't give up" he said.

"That I will, that I will," said his uncle.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004
"Keep on marching, don't give up"
30 May 1981

This tribute to the determination and spirit of republican resistance of the four dead H-Block hunger-strikers - IRA Volunteers Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, and Raymond McCreesh, and INLA Volunteer Patsy O'Hara - is written by Belfast republican Jim Gibney, who had the demanding, but privileged task of regularly visiting the former three in the H-Block prison hospital during their fast to the death for political prisoner status.



My next visit to the prison hospital was the following week to see Francis Hughes. It was my second visit with Francis since he started hungerstrike. He was in fine form, although his bad leg was causing some problems. We discussed the Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election campaign which was just moving into full gear.

The following week I visited Raymond McCreesh in the hospital. He was fit enough to walk from his hospital bed to a room set aside for visitors. His eldest sister Marie was on the visit with his brother Michael. Marie had not seen Raymond for over five years, so it was an emotional reunion dominated by family news. When the visit ended Raymond stood up to say good bye, and became dizzy, almost fainted and had to sit down again. He had turned a pale white colour.

That same week I was back visiting Bobby, along with his mother and sister Marcella. He was now over forty days on hungerstrike. As we arrived in the hospital, the doctor in charge of the hungerstrikers invited us to his office. There, for twenty minutes, he, and another doctor called Emerson (who the McCreesh family tried to remove from treating Raymond in the last days of his life because of suspected impropriety) went into great detail about their dilemma in dealing with hungerstrikers. They quiet needlessly detailed the effects of a hungerstrike on the body and how the body lapses into a coma. Although they attempted to distance themselves from the prison administration, claiming their role was independent, in reality they were probing Mrs Sands and Marcella and me to see if they could find a weakness.

When at last we went in to Bobby, he was considerably weaker than when I had last seen him, but he had no difficulty speaking or moving about the bed. He warned his mother about the doctors trying to get at him thru the family and said that should he lapse into a come, he was not to be revived. We discussed his election campaign: he felt that the election would be a boost to the hungerstrike campaign, but would not be enough to shift Thatcher off course. How right he was to be proved!

The most trying time for the hungerstrikers was the period shortly after Bobby's death when a virtual queue of international dignitaries lined up outside his cell door, waiting to try and persuade him to end the hungerstrike. Their presence alone created an illusion of movement and raised hopes only to be dashed by the vindictive language of Margaret Thatcher.

*Not much time tonight, last bit tomorrow.  
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
"Keep on marching, don't give up"
30 May 1981

This tribute to the detemination and spirit of republican resistance of the four dead H-Block hunger-strikers - IRA Volunteers Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, and Raymond McCreesh, and INLA Volunteer Patsy O'Hara - is written by Belfast republican Jim Gibney, who had the demanding, but privileged task of regularly visiting the former three in the H-Block prison hospital during their fast to the death for political prisoner status.

"I'm extremely weak, I'm blind, I can't see you. Tell the lads to keep their chins up. Don't be down-hearted. I'm hanging on in. I'll see this thing thru"
Bobby Sands, sixty one days on hungerstrike

"Thatcher will have coffins coming out of here because we are not giving in."
Francis Hughes fifty two days on hungerstrike

"Keep on marching, don't give up."
Raymond McCreesh, fifty four days on hungerstrike

These were the final words spoken on the last visits I had with three of the four dead hungerstrikers. (Patsy O'Hara was visited by representatives of his own organisation and I only saw him, briefly, once.)

Fromt he beginning of the hungerstrike on March 1st, I spent a total of six and a half hours with Bobby, Francis and Raymond: four half hour visits each with Bobby and Francis and five half hour visits with Raymond.

The conversations on those visits covered a multitude of topics ranging from Bobby's election campaign and victory, the various visits to the HBlocks by politicians and clergy, the IRA's campaign, the protest movement, and the state of health of the other hungerstrikers.

A measure of the prisoners' commitment during the hungerstrike can be guaged by the fact that not once did the hungerstrikers volunteer information about their own physical condition. Their deteriorating health did not preoccupy their minds. They used their bodies as weapons against British rule as coolly and calculatedly as they used guns and bombs before their imprisonment, but alas, on this last operation their "run back" led only one way: to the grave.


Having spent so much time (in terms of the visits they received on hungerstrike) with men whose bravery captured the imagination of the world, and who willingly died in the hope that their deaths would lead to a transformation in our struggle for national freedom, I feel both humble and privileged.

The inner political conviction, the will power, the personal heroism of the hungerstrikers, is inestimable. No matter what their opponents allege about their actions, no-one can rob them of the dignified manner in which they overcame the daunting fear of death. And while those moralists in State and Church bore us to tears with their view of the rightness and wrongness of the hungerstrike, the ordinary people know in their hearts and minds who is right and who is wrong, and act accordingly.

The four prisoners were held for two thirds of their hungerstriker in the prison hospital. The hospital contains eleven cells, six on one side of a smartly polished corridor and five on the other. Unlike the HBlocks, the cell doors in the hospital block are wooden. The block is spotlessly clean and has the smell and appearance of a normal hospital, but differs in every other way, with iron grills, and locked foors being the ingredient which change it into a prison.

My first visit to it was when Bobby Sands was thirty days on hungerstrike. Travelling with his mother, Rosaleen, and his sister Marcella, in the back of a prison minibus from the prison visiting area, my mind was abuzz at the prospect of what lay before me. Firmly planted in my mind was the wretched emaciated figure of the German hungerstriker Holger Meins, photographed shortly after dying on hungerstrike in a West German prison in 1972. So, when I saw Bobby, with a boyish style hair style, clean shaven, and slightly drawn, sitting on top of the bed, wearing a multicoloured dressing gown and greeting us with a smile, I was surprised at his reasonable appearance.

He was in good spirits and we talked at length about the situation inside the prison and outside. We discussed the protest movement and he cautioned against expecting large turn outs early in the hungerstrike. He believed that people would respond when the condition of the hungerstrikers worsened. "The people know when to come onto the streets", he said.

The visit was terminated all too quickly. I was pleased, leaving him, because I could see he was thinking ahead and was on top of the situation.

**More tomorrow. 
Saturday, June 19, 2004
  The Irish Independent has some interesting analysis of Sinn Fein's money situation, amongst other things, from todays Analysis articles. Here are some of the links:

Sinn Fein: Where does the money come from?
And still the intimidation and racketeering go on ...
HOW THE €800,000 ADDS UP ... 
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
  Reading sermons by "fiery" minister Jonathan Edwards for my American Literature (if it can really be called that...) course reminded me very much of Ian Paisley's sectarian and brimstone-y spoutings from the pulpit.

Old Ian says:

'Be not deceived, God is not mocked, whatsoever a man soweth that he shall also reap.'
Sir, you will reap what you are sowing. Madam, you will reap what you are sowing. The harvest will certainly come, and you will reap whatsoever you sow.
Oh, there is an unmasking day coming for the hypocrite... Passing yourself off as a Christian will not help you then. All that will be torn from you and you will be portrayed in the nakedness of your sin, in the shame of your hypocrisy before the God Whose eyes will search you through and through.

(From Gospel Power, a sermon given at Ballymena, 1976)

Whereas Jonny Edwards says:

The use of this awful subject may be for awakening unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ. -- That world of misery, that take of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell's wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor any thing to take hold of; there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.

-Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Seems as if Ian has ignored the last quarter millenium of human self-realisation and took a page straight from Edwards mid-18th century doctrine. What else is to be expected from the man who deemed line-dancing to be sinful?

For Edwards, the sectarianism is against the Jews:

"Jewish infidelity shall be overthrown...the Jews in all their dispersions shall cast away their old infidelity, and shall have their hearts wonderfully changed, and abhor themselves for their past unbelief and obstinacy."

For Paisley its the Catholics:

"You cannot talk peace until the enemy surrenders and the enemy is the Roman Catholic Church. " 
Monday, June 14, 2004
  Some personal reflection...

At the moment, I am reading the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin for an American Literature class. I'd like to say that I respect the man more and more, each bit of information that I learn about him.

Also recently read and currently leafing thru:

Case for Faith by Lee Strobel
Various histories of the Basques and the history of witchcraft and demonology.

Though lately I haven't been able to use the internet as much as I'm used to, I still would like to promote sites that are valuable resources and great reads:

1169 & Counting is a site that is a valuable source of Republican history as well as what some bearded and spectacled nationalist politicians may like to incorrectly deem "dissident" ideology.

Newshound and the Irish Eagle are also good sources of Irish politics and news. While I may not agree with ANY of Mr. Fay's politics, I respect the work he does and also the fact that he is a big baseball fan!

I hope that everyone is well and behaving.  
Friday, June 11, 2004
Irish Republican Bulletin Board (IRBB)

The Irish Republican Bulletin Board (IRBB) is one of the most popular Irish Republican forums on the internet. We welcome all views as long as they adhere to the rules of the forum. The board is maintained by Na Fianna Éireann and can be accessed at the link below.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004
Labour and Ireland
Dublin Working Class, amid Great Emotion,
Hoist and Salute the Flag of Ireland [1]
(22 April 1916)


Workers’ Republic, 22 April 1916.
Reprinted in Red Banner, No.12.
Transcribed by Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


On Sunday, April 16, 1916, let the date be forever remembered, Dublin witnessed a scene that moved thousands of men and women to tears of joy and thanksgiving. On that day the Irish Citizen Army, the armed forces of Labour, on the top of the headquarters of the Irish Transport Workers’ Union, hoisted and unfurled the Green Flag of Ireland, emblazoned with the Harp without the Crown, and as the sacred emblem of Ireland’s unconquered soul fluttered to the breeze, the bugles pealed their defiant salute, and the battalion presented arms, strong men wept for joy, and women fainted with emotion.

From early in the day the historic square was the centre of Dublin. Crowds were continually arriving to assure themselves that the ceremony was really to take place. All sorts of rumours were current all the week. Field guns were to level the Hall with the ground, all the avenues of approach were to be occupied by masses of troops with machine guns, Mr Connolly and all his officers were to be arrested at dead of night, martial law was to be declared on Saturday, and so forth; the stories were endless, and the bearers of the stories came from all quarters and ranks of society. But the preparations were quietly proceeded with, and the appointed hour found Beresford Place and all its avenues of approach blocked indeed, not by troops, but by tens of thousands of a breathless, excited, and jubilant crowd.

The duty and honour of unfurling the flag was allotted to Miss Molly Reilly, a young and beautiful member of the Irish Women Workers’ Union.

In front of the Hall the Irish Citizen Army cleared a space and formed into three sides of a square. Inside their formation positions were occupied by the Women’s Section, who made a splendid and beautiful show, the Citizen Army Boy Scouts, under Captain Carpenter, and the Fintan Lalor Pipers’ Band. Captain Poole and a Colour Guard of sixteen men escorted the Colour Bearer who was accompanied also by the three young girl dancers known as the Liberty trio.

The flag was deposited first on a pile of drums in the centre of the square. After inspecting the troops, Commandant Connolly took up his position in front of the drums with Commandant Mallin on his left and Lieutenant Markievicz on his right. Then the Colour Bearer, Miss Reilly, advanced from her escort, received the Colours from the Commandant, and turned about to face the Colour Guard. As she did so the Guard presented arms, and the buglers sounded the Salute. When the Colour Bearer had retaken her place in the centre of the Guard that body moved off around the square, whilst the Pipers’ Band played appropriate music.

As the Colour Guard reached the entrance to the Hall again, and reformed to their original front the Colour Bearer carrying the Colours across her breast bore them into the hall, and up to the roof. At this point the excitement was almost painful in its intensity. So closely had the crowds been packed that many thousands had been unable to see the ceremony on the square, but the eyes of all were now riveted upon the flag pole awaiting the re-appearance of the Colour Bearer. All Beresford Square was packed, Butt Bridge and Tara Street were as a sea of upturned faces. All the North Side of the Quays up to O’Connell Street was thronged, and O’Connell Bridge itself was impassable owing to the vast multitude of eager, sympathetic onlookers.

The Fintan Lalor Pipers’ Band is among the very first rank of the Pipe bands of Ireland, but so anxious and prayerfully eager were the people that its fine music was scarcely heeded as the hearts of all beat rapidly with longing for the appearance of the Flag upon its position.

At last the young Colour Bearer, radiant with excitement and glowing with colour in face and form, mounted beside the parapet of the roof, and with a quick graceful movement of her hand unloosed the lanyard, and THE FLAG OF IRELAND fluttered out upon the breeze.

Those who witnessed that scene will never forget it. Over the Square, across Butt Bridge, in all the adjoining streets, along the quays, amid the dense mass upon O’Connell Bridge, Westmoreland Street and D’Olier Street corners, everywhere the people burst out in one joyous delirious shout of welcome and triumph, hats and handkerchiefs fiercely waved, tears of emotion coursed freely down the cheeks of strong rough men, and women became hysterical with excitement.

As the first burst of cheering subsided Commandant Connolly gave the command, “Battalion, Present Arms”, the bugles sounded the General Salute, and the concourse was caught up in a delirium of joy and passion.

In a few short words at the close Commandant Connolly pledged his hearers to give their lives if necessary to keep the Irish Flag Flying, and the ever memorable scene was ended.

Monday, June 07, 2004
  Apologies for the recent lack of posts. I've been busy situating myself in my new house as well as beginning summer courses. Hope everyone is well.

Socialism and Irish Nationalism
James Connolly


From L’Irlande Libre, Paris 1897.
Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997.


The public life of Ireland has been generally so much identified with the struggle for political emancipation, that, naturally, the economic side of the situation has only received from our historians and public men a very small amount of attention.

Scientific Socialism is based upon the truth incorporated in this proposition of Karl Marx, that, “the economic dependence of the workers on the monopolists of the means of production is the foundation of slavery in all its forms, the cause of nearly all social misery, modern crime, mental degradation and political dependence”. Thus this false exaggeration of purely political forms which has clothed in Ireland the struggle for liberty, must appear to the Socialist an inexplicable error on the part of a people so strongly crushed down as the Irish.

But the error is more in appearance than in reality.

The reactionary attitude of our political leaders notwithstanding, the great mass of the Irish people know full well that if they had once conquered that political liberty which they struggle for with so much ardour, it would have to be used as a means of social redemption before their well-being would be assured.

In spite of occasional exaggeration of its immediate results one must remember that by striving determinedly, as they have done, towards this definite political end, the Irish are working on the lines of conduct laid down by modern Socialism as the indispensable condition of success.

Since the abandonment of the unfortunate insurrectionism of the early Socialists whose hopes were exclusively concentrated on the eventual triumph of an uprising and barricade struggle, modern Socialism, relying on the slower, but surer method of the ballot-box, has directed the attention of its partisans toward the peaceful conquest of the forces of government in the interests of the revolutionary ideal.

The advent of Socialism can only take place when the revolutionary proletariat, in possession of the organized forces of the nation (the political power of government) will be able to build up a social organization in conformity with the natural march of industrial development.

On the other hand, non-political co operative effort must infallibly succumb in face of the opposition of the privileged classes, entrenched behind the ramparts of law and monopoly. This is why, even when he is from the economic point of view intensely conservative, the Irish Nationalist, even with his false reasoning, is an active agent in social regeneration, in so far as he seeks to invest with full power over its own destinies a people actually governed in the interests of a feudal aristocracy.

The section of the Socialist army to which I belong, the Irish Socialist Republican Party, never seeks to hide its hostility to those purely bourgeois parties which at present direct Irish politics.

But, in inscribing on our banners an ideal to which they also give lip-homage, we have no intention of joining in a movement which could debase the banner of revolutionary Socialism.

The Socialist parties of France oppose the mere Republicans without ceasing to love the Republic. In the same way the Irish Socialist Republican Party seeks the independence of the nation, while refusing to conform to the methods or to employ the arguments of the chauvinist Nationalist.

As Socialists we are not imbued with national or racial hatred by the remembrance that the political and social order under which we live was imposed on our fathers at the point of the sword; that during 700 years Ireland has resisted this unjust foreign domination; that famine, pestilence and bad government have made this western isle almost a desert and scattered our exiled fellow-countrymen over the whole face of the globe.

The enunciation of facts such as I have just stated is not able today to inspire or to direct the political energies of the militant working class of Ireland; such is not the foundation of our resolve to free Ireland from the yoke of the British Empire. We recognize rather that during all these centuries the great mass of the British people had no political existence whatever; that England was, politically and socially, terrorized by a numerically small governing class; that the atrocities which have been perpetrated against Ireland are only imputable to the unscrupulous ambition of this class, greedy to enrich itself at the expense of defenceless men; that up to the present generation the great majority of the English people were denied a deliberate voice in the government of their own country; that it is, therefore, manifestly unjust to charge the English people with the past crimes of their Government; and that at the worst we can but charge them with a criminal apathy in submitting to slavery and allowing themselves to be made an instrument of coercion for the enslavement of others. An accusation as applicable to the present as to the past.

But whilst refusing to base our political action on hereditary national antipathy, and wishing rather comradeship with the English workers than to regard them with hatred, we desire with our precursors the United Irishmen of 1798 that our animosities be buried with the bones of our ancestors – there is not a party in Ireland which accentuates more as a vital principle of its political faith the need of separating Ireland from England and of making it absolutely independent. In the eyes of the ignorant and of the unreflecting this appears an inconsistency, but I am persuaded that our Socialist brothers in France will immediately recognize the justice of the reasoning upon which such a policy is based.

1. We hold “the economic emancipation of the worker requires the conversion of the means of production into the common property of Society”. Translated into the current language and practice of actual politics this teaches that the necessary road to be travelled towards the establishment of Socialism requires the transference of the means of production from the hands of private owners to those of public bodies directly responsible to the entire community.

2. Socialism seeks then in the interest of the democracy to strengthen popular action on all public bodies.

3. Representative bodies in Ireland would express more directly the will of the Irish people than when those bodies reside in England.

An Irish Republic would then be the natural depository of popular power; the weapon of popular emancipation, the only power which would show in the full light of day all these class antagonisms and lines of economic demarcation now obscured by the mists of bourgeois patriotism.

In that there is not a trace of chauvinism. We desire to preserve with the English people the same political relations as with the people of France, or Germany, or of any other country; the greatest possible friendship, but also the strictest independence. Brothers, but not bedfellows. Thus, inspired by another ideal, conducted by reason not by tradition, following a different course, the Socialist Republican Party of Ireland arrives at the same conclusion as the most irreconcilable Nationalist. The governmental power of England over us must be destroyed; the bonds which bind us to her must be broken. Having learned from history that all bourgeois movements end in compromise, that the bourgeois revolutionists of today become the conservatives of tomorrow, the Irish Socialists refuse to deny or to lose their identity with those who only half understand the problem of liberty. They seek only the alliance and the friendship of those hearts who, loving liberty for its own sake, are not afraid to follow its banner when it is uplifted by the hands of the working class who have most need of it. Their friends are those who would not hesitate to follow that standard of liberty, to consecrate their lives in its service even should it lead to the terrible arbitration of the sword.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Rossa's Recollections
Chapter XiX

The McManus funeral tended very much to increase the strength of the Fenian movement. Men from Leinster, Ulster, Munster and Connaught met in Dublin who never met each other before. They talked of the old cause, and of the national spirit in their respective provinces, and each went back to his home, strengthened for more vigorous work. England's eyes were somewhat opened too, to the increasing danger to her rule in Ireland, and shaped herself accordingly. In the policy of government she is not blind to what passes before her eyes; she knows how averse to the interests of her rule it is to allow the people to come together and understand each other, and hence, those many Convention or anti-Convention laws that she passed for Ireland in her day. In the days of the United Irishmen, secret committees of the Houses of Lords and Commons were appointed to make inquiries into the state of Ireland. A committee of the Lords sat in 1793 and a joint committee of the Lords and Commons sat in 1897. They summoned before them every one they thought could give information, and everyone who refused to answer their questions was sent to jail.

On the 17th of May 1797, the English governors at Dublin Castle issued a proclamation in which they said: "Whereas, within this Kingdom a seditious and traitorous conspiracy, by a number of persons syling themselves United Irishmen exists, they have planned means of open violence, and formed secret arrangement for raising, arming, and paying a disciplined force and in furtherance of their purposes, have frequently assembled in great and unusual numbers, under the colorable pretext of planting or digging potatoes, attending funerals and the like" etc. "And we do strictly forewarn persons from meeting in any unusual numbers, under the plausible or colorable pretext as aforesaid, or any other whatsoever."

So, that while James Stephens, for his side of the house, saw the good and necessity of bringing his chief men together at the McManus funeral, the other side of the house, with all the experience of government they have on record, were pretty well able to give a good guess at what it all meant.

Not that England doesn't know what the mass of the Irish people are always discontented, disaffected and rebellious - and have reasons to be so - but that they would be organised into a body actively preparing for fight is what strikes terror to her heart. The Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood were so preparing, secretly preparing, but circumstances connected with the necessity of receiving a promised or expected assistance from America - that was not received - which circumstances I will show further on - developed things so, that the organisation soon became as much a public one as a private one. We were assailed publicly in many ways and by many parties, and we had to defend ourselves publicly and thus show ourselves to our enemies as well as to our friends.

***A little more of this tomorrow. 
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Ta ar la anois.

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