Random Ramblings from a Republican
Friday, November 19, 2004
  Today in Irish history: November 19, 1913, Irish Citizen Army is founded.

History of the Irish Citizen Army
by RM Fox

The Starry Plough

This history of a pioneer Labour force made up of workers - men and women - in Dublin, is a fragment of history, torn from the life of our times.

All the time I have felt the deepening conviction that the real strength of these men and women was there belief in human freedom and dignity. It is this which gave them the courage to march forward against starvation, imprisonment and ridicule. Underlying all their efforts is that steady rhythm of liberty. In their march through history they are pioneers of human liberation.

"What is it that distinguishes them from their fellows?" I have asked myself continually, as I talked with these men and women. It is simply that the pulse of liberty beats more strongly in their blood.

When I speak of this history being a fragment I do not mean that care has not been taken in its gatherings, in its writing. But I do mean that in the stormy days of which it treats no one could hope to record every deed that is worth recording. Many acts as daring as any spoken of here were carried out by Citizen Army men and women, and I would wish them and others to take what is recorded here as typical of the whole. I have not attempted to pick out individuals but - in the main outline - to tell the story of this workers' force.

Under the banner of the Starry Plough, names do gleam out. James Connolly, the leader, square shouldered, resolute, persistent and reliable, strides through this story until that day in 1916 when, badly wounded, he was carried out to be shot. In his life and activities he was the soul of the Citizen Army. When he died the Army was left leaderless. But in difficult days of chaos and defeat, the Army rose again, holding to its beliefs with the same passionate sincerity that marked its leader.

Another name, which is like a star on the folds of its flag, is Michael Mallin, Connolly's alert and efficient Chief of Staff, He, too, died as he would have wished, facing the enemy when the reckoning came in 1916. Yet it is not his death that his comrades of the Citizen Army remember but he gay and lovable personality. Mallin, who had always a word for his men, who knew so well how to evoke that personal loyalty which made them ready to go through fire and water - this man with smiling eyes and a manner of oiled unobtrusive efficiency. Gentle and artistic, he loved to play on his flute when he brought his men back from a route march. So his image remains, unshattered by the firing squad.

*Section 2 of this introduction tomorrow
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Ta ar la anois.

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