Random Ramblings from a Republican
Monday, February 28, 2005
  Birth of Sean MacDiarmada - February 28, 1884

Lament for Sean MacDermott

By Seamus O'Sullivan

THEY have slain you, Sean MacDermott; never more these eyes will greet
The eyes beloved by women, and the smile that true men loved;
Never more I’ll hear the stick-tap, and the gay and limping feet,
They have slain you, Sean the Gentle, Sean the valiant, Sean the proved.

Have you scorn for us who linger here behind you, Sean the wise?
As you look about and greet your comrades in the strange new dawn.
So one says, but saying, wrongs you, for doubt never dimmed your eyes,
And not death itself could make those lips of yours grow bitter, Sean.

As your stick goes tapping down the heavenly pavement, Sean, my friend,
That is not your way of thinking, generous, tender, wise and brave;
We, who knew and loved and trusted you, are trusted to the end,
And your hand even now grips mine as though there never were a grave. 
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Fourteenth Century Ireland

Part Two

A Gaelic resurgence was in full swing, as the most significant gain for the native Irish chiefs was not necessarily territory, but liberty. In Leinster the chieftains had freedom of action as the royal government inadequately filled the gap left by the former lords of Leinster, a role later filled by the increasing power of the earls of Ormond and Kildare. In Connacht and Desmond the O'Connor and McCarthy chiefs were partially halted by the power of the Burkes and the earls of Desmond. In Thomond and Ulster this liberty was almost absolute.

There were many reasons for the decline of English royal power in Ireland in the fourteenth century. They included the impact of the Bruce invasion and the Black Death. English monarchs tended to drain the colony's resources in their campaigns against the Scots and north Welsh, and in the Hundred Years War in France. The Wars of the Roses gave kings few opportunities to recover lost ground in Ireland. To make matters worse, descendants of Norman conquerors had gone native, adopting Irish speech and customs, and abandoned their bonds with the Crown to become warlords. Only the ports and the territory around Dublin remained loyal to the Crown.

A steady deterioration of the weather across the northern hemisphere, brought a series of bad harvests in its wake. The Bruce invasion had corresponded with the Great European Famine of 1315-18, and the annals for the fourteenth century contain many references to bad seasons and cattle plagues.

The English colonists, who depended more heavily on corn than the Gaelic Irish, suffered most and, in addition, were scourged by a succession of plagues in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The Black Death first appeared in Howth during the summer of 1348, and though in the following year the Annals of Connacht record "a great plague in all Ireland this year", it seems certain that the colonists in the Irish Lordship were hit hardest. The congested streets of Dublin, Drogheda, Kilkenny and other English-held towns accommodated populations of black rats, hosts of fleas carrying the dreaded bacillus. Six further outbreaks of the Black Death before the fourteenth century probably reduced the population of the English occupying colonials by 40 or 50 percent.

The government in Dublin Castle put up fortifications, dug trenches, appointed guards to hold the bridges and assigned watchmen to light warning fires when danger threatened. The area around Dublin extended from Dundalk, inland to Naas, and south to Bray. This area became known as the Pale. Apart from Carrickfergus castle, the province of Ulster was beyond the Pale.

Richard II, on the throne since 1377, was the first reigning monarch of England to visit Ireland since King John, and the only one to come to the island more than once until Queen Victoria did so. He responded to the desperate appeal of his loyal colonists, who declared that they were 'not able to find or think of other remedy except the coming of the king, our lord, in his own person'.

Landing at Waterford in October 1394 with the greatest army Ireland had yet seen, and after a hard winter campaigning, Richard brought the Leinster Irish to heel. Only too awake to the fact that the English were holding his grandsons hostage, Niall Mor O'Neill was amongst the eighty chieftains who were made to submit.

Richard sailed away in 1395, leaving Roger de Mortimer as royal governor. De Mortimer lacked the acumen necessary and foolishly made war on Niall Mor. Art MacMurrough Kavanagh declared himself King of Leinster and rebelled, with de Mortimer dying in a skirmish. Richard came to Ireland again in 1399, this time without the careful preparation of the 1394-95 campaign. It was a devastating expedition for the invading force and while he was in Ireland, at home his cousin Henry Bolingbroke rose in revolt. Richard returned to England to fight for his throne but instead lost his kingdom and his head. 
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
  Today in Irish history:

February 23, 1317 - Bruce's army marches south and reaches Castleknock, within sight of Dublin. The mayor of Dublin has imprisoned the Earl of Ulster, who is suspected of being sympathetic to Bruce. (source)

Fourteenth Century Ireland

Part One

Following the initial invasion of the Cambro-Normans in the late twelfth century the installation of foreign-born lords and earls in Ireland, by King Henry II and his son John, continued throughout the thirteenth century. This gave rise to some of the great ascendacy class of Anglo-Norman families such as the Geraldines of Leinster and south Munster, the Burkes of Connacht and north Munster, and the Butlers of Tipperary and Kilkenny. These families held complete control over their designated areas.

By the beginning of the fourteenth century the expanse of the Irish feudalism was at its pinnacle. Every native leader, even the Maguires and O'Donnells in the extreme northwest, was legally the tenant of some earl or baron, or of the English king directly. However power struggles between the Irish lords and the Anglo barons, as well as rivalries among the various Irish chieftains, continued to change the landscape of political power within Ireland over the next century.

Between 1315 and 1318, the Scottish war in Britain spilled into Ireland. Edward Bruce, brother of Robert the king of Scotland, in alliance with Domhnall O Neill, king of Tir Eoghain, carried on a three year campaign against the English barons before he was defeated at the Battle of Faughart in Louth.

At the Battle of Athenry in 1316, five Irish kings were killed along with many chieftains from Connacht, Thomond and Westmeath. In conjunction with a terrible Famine from 1315-1317, the Bruce campaign devastated much of the land in the colony. In Thomond the death of Richard de Clare at the Battle of Dysert O'Dea leaves a gap which allow the O'Brien chiefs de facto independence for the rest of the Middle Ages.

At Christmas 1316, Robert Bruce joined his brother, landing at Carrickfergus with an imposing force. Early in February 1317, the brothers fought their way thru Ulster and besieged Dublin. The capital of the Irish Lordship held out successfully and the Bruces turned away to raid as far as Limerick. The winter was one of the harshest in memory, and the paucity was as severe as anyone could remember.

Edward Bruce had had himself crowned King of Ireland but the Scots were failing in their great enterprise. Robert Bruce returned to Scotland in May 1317, but Edward stayed on for another year. Then in the autumn of 1318 John de Bermingham brought an English army north from Dublin and defeated and killed Edward Bruce at the hill of Faughart near Dundalk.

For the rest of the fourteenth century the Anglo-Irish parliament in Ireland complained of decaying defenses and incompetent administration in the lands of the English lords, many of whom were living in England. The Statutes of Kilkenny were passed in 1366 as a fultile attempt to stem the increasing cooperation between the 'Gaelicized' English and the Irish chiefs.

*Part two tomorrow. 
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
  Lack of creative initiative for me. So here is a 1981 reprint.

February 21st, 1981
An Phoblacht/Republican News

Ex Hunger-Strikers Back On Blanket

(Image of article)

Two months after the ending of the last HBlock hunger-strike on Thursday 18th December, six out of the seven hunger-strikers, who have recovered from the more serious effects of their fast for political status, have gone back on the blanket protest, having been shifted from the Long Kesh prison hospital last Saturday, February 14th.

Brendan Hughes (Belfast) and John Nixon (Armagh City) resumed their protest and joined their comrades in H6-Block, whilst Ray McCartney (Derry City), Tommy McKearney (Co. Tyrone), Leo Green (Lurgan), and Tom McFeely (South Derry) went on the blanket in H4.

The seventh H-Block hunger-strikers, Sean McKenna (Newry) is still recovering in the prison hospital, and it is likely to be several weeks before he is transferred. For the six hunger-strikers it was bound to be a very emotional reunion given all that they have come through, and with the British government reneging on the terms and spirit of the settlement.

Meanwhile, harassment of the blanket men, in the run-up to the second hungerstrike, continues.

In H4-Block, three men were assaulted during a wing shift on Wednesday 11th February: Paddy Kane and Frank Canavan were kicked on the leg and John Bradley was kicked and punched in the back. A prisoner warder also threw urine over a set of blankets and pillows.

On Saturday 14th February, Fermanagh man Liam Ferguson, when returning from a visit, was struck several times across the face by two warders named as Alex Luke and Mervyn Ross.

Further news from inside the H-Blocks is that those remaining prisoners who had taken part in January's abortive pilot scheme and later smashed up cell furniture before being moved to H6, have now been transferred back to H3. 
Saturday, February 12, 2005

Frank Stagg dies on hungerstrike - 12 Feb 1976

Frank Stagg, from Hollymount, Co Mayo, came rightly by his devotion to the cause of Ireland. His father was an active Republican, serving with distinction in both the War of Independence and the Civil War. Stagg himself was arrested in 1973, and under the British Conspiracy Laws, was convicted of conspiracy to commit arson.

Continue reading..
Thursday, February 10, 2005
  I've really been enjoying the posts over at Broom of Anger lately. The latest post is very good, and very true.

Also, Aontacht, a site for Republican unity is up and running very well. A skeleton of the site has been posted up with a manifesto and a purpose statement. The discussion forum has over 120 members with more joining each day. Check into it if you are up for intelligent discussion regarding possible unifying efforts within so-called "dissenting" republican groups.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Attempt on the British War Cabinet, 1991

The IRA made an attempt to take out the entire British War Cabinet in February 7th, 1991. With a salvo of improvised mortar bombs fired from a lorry, the Provisional IRA nearly took out the most important and high profile members of the British government in a single attack. This attacks' potential directly matches that of the Brighton bombing nearly 7 years earlier. It was daring and well-planned but fell upon bad luck.

Two of the three mortars fired came dangerously close to striking their target. One mortar hit a tree right in front of the building. Had this tree not been in the way, the mortar would have scored a direct hit on the government building. The second mortar struck the back garden of 10 Downing St. leaving a 2 metre crater and spraying shards of window glass onto the Cabinet members. The mortars were apparently miscalibrated by less than 10 degrees.

Training in mortar calibration and construction, and other related things needs to be elaborated upon. This took months to acheive acceptable levels of expertise for the active service unit. Therefore, the planning for the operation pre-dated both John Major's stint in office and the first Gulf War.

The Provisional IRA statement regarding the attack included the following: "Whether the Gulf War goes on for weeks or years, let the British government understand that, while nationalist people in the Six Counties are forced to live under British rule, the British cabinet will be forced to meet in bunkers."

The Provos had missed wiping out the entire British governmental elite by less then 15 metres. The headlines of the brilliant attempt dominated the news for the week. This attack helped to seal the thoughts in the minds of many British politicians that they would eventually have to deal with the Provos at the negotiating table.

Monday, February 07, 2005
  Once again: This time 23 years ago:

On Friday, February 6th, 1981, the IRA, after promises to hinder British ship movement off the Irish coast, bombed and sank a British coal boat: the Nellie M. The thousand pound merchant vessel was located in Lough Foyle, between the coasts of Co. Derry and Donegal.

A dozen armed IRA Volunteers arrived at the docks in the fishing village of Moville and comandeered a pilot boat. The man in the pilot house was instructed to take seven of the volunteers with tons of explosives out to the coal boat, while the other five kept guard back on the docks.

Once aboard the Nellie M, the IRA instructed the chief engineer of the ship that they were not fooling around. Knowing the situation was serious, the man agreed to cooperate and went down to the crew quarters to inform the sailors of the situation. The captain would later comment on the professionalism and understanding of the Volunteers.

Three Volunteers took to planting bombs while the remaining four kept watch on the crew. Bombs were planted in pre-planned points in the engine room. The crew were then instructed to don lifejackets and board the Nellie M's life boat. The Volunteers attached a rope to the life boat and towed it using the commandeered pilot boat. When they were near shore, the life boat was set loose. Around this time, the explosions on the ship rocked the water.

Fires broke out on the deck of the ship, and they could be seen for miles around up and down the Donegal coast of Lough Foyle. The second blast was set for a few hours later, and went off as planned, finally bring water into the ship. By morning, the back half of the ship was submerged. Left on the boat was a warning that future merchant ships would meet the same fate, though towards the crews there was no malice.

The Nellie M was valued at 3 million pounds while its cargo of coal constituted another million sterling. The outrage amongst Brits and Free Staters was immediate and the suggestion of armed guards on shipments from the "North" to Britain was exactly the effect the IRA hope for. It was another step in breaking the British policy of "normalisation."

Sunday, February 06, 2005
The Countess

Part 2

The Countess had been acquainted with James Connolly since 1911, when she and the Scottish socialist participated in protests against the English King. They again crossed paths during the 1913 lockout, when she opened her home to the protest's leaders.

In late 1915, she joined Connolly's Irish Citizen Army and was given the position of lieutenant. This struck a negative cord with some of the men in the ranks of the ICA; namely Sean O'Casey who ended up quitting in protest.

When the unrest in Dublin finally boiled over into the Easter Rising, Constance fought bravely with the men at St. Stephen's Green with Michael Mallin as her commanding officer. Her exploits in the face of danger are well recorded in the annals of history by first hand witnesses. They held for six testing days thru bitter fighting. The men and women of the ICA refused to surrender the Green until forced after a copy of Pearse's surrender notice, also signed by Connolly was presented to Mallin and the Countess.

Once taken into custody by the British, she was transported to Kilmainham Jail where she was the only female prisoner to be held in solitary confinement. She rightly expected and waited to be executed along with her comrades. And she actually was given a sentence of death but it was later commuted to life in prison, much to the Countess' dismay. The only reason her death sentence wasn't enforced, to quote General Maxwell, was because "of the prisoner's sex."

Released after the General Amnesty in the early winter of 1917, she returned to the revolutionary society of Ireland. Her activities got her arrested once again in 1918 under the Defence of the Realm Act in regards to the bogus "German Plot." She ran for a Westminster seat whilst in an English Jail and actually won! She became the first woman to win a Parliamentary seat.

Released just before the first assembly of the Dail Eireann, she was appointed Minister of Labour. She did not get to participate very often in the proceedings as she was forced to go on the run from the Tans and the Brits. She would be subsequently arrested twice more in the next 3 years and interned for months at a time.

Her internment ended when the Treaty debates began in July of 1921. She spoke out against a treaty which would split Ireland in any way. Vocally against the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, she told Michael Collins directly that it was a traitorous act to legitimise the document.

With the beginning of the Civil War, she again put on her holster and fought hard against the Staters, who were attempting to crush the Republican dream. Constance helped to defend Moran's Hotel in Dublin amidst heavy fire from borrowed British guns operated by her former comrades.

After the conclusion of the Civil War, she ran to keep her seat in the Dail, and was successful. Her politics, however, conflicted with the Free State policies and she was arrested for "suspicious activities." Along with nearly a hundred of her fellow female Republicans, she embarked upon a hungerstrike in October of 1923. It only took a month for the Free State to cave under the pressure of these hard women. They were released in November of 1923.

She joined De Valera's Fianna Fail party in 1926, and stood in the Dail election of 1927. She was elected to the assembly, but suddenly grew ill and had to be hospitalised. She died in Sir Patrick Dunn's Hospital's public wing on 15 July 1927. Her funeral procession to Glasnevin was one of the biggest in Irish history and drew nearly 300,000 people. Eamon De Valera delivered an eloquent and striking eulogy, very worthy of the women it was written about. The Countess lives on in Irish history and needs to be remembered for what she was, a brave and relentless Irishwoman.

Comrades, To Con
The peaceful night that round me flows,
Breaks through your iron prison doors,
Free through the world your spirit goes,
Forbidden hands are clasping yours.
The wind is our confederate
The night has left the doors ajar;
We meet beyond earth's barred gate,
Where all the world's wild rebels are.

-Eva Gore-Booth
Friday, February 04, 2005
Celebrating the Countess' Birthday!
The Countess

Constance Gore-Booth was born into an Ascendancy family on Feb. 4, 1868 at Buckingham Gate in London. Her father, Sir Henry Gore-Booth was a philanthropist and a traveler with an estate in Co. Sligo. The Gore-Booths were known as fair and understanding landlords. It was probably being raised in the atmosphere of fairness concerning the welfare of the common man that would shape both Constance and her sister Eva's future as helpers of the people.

During her early life, Constance was exposed to the usual circles of the upper echelon of both Irish and English society. She became interested in the budding literary society in Ireland and was introduced to the young and talented poet, William Butler Yeats.

In 1893, she left Ireland for London, where she attended Slade School to fulfill her ambition as an artist. Five years later, she left London for Paris, where she attended the Julian School. It was here that she met her future husband, Count Casimir Dunin Markievicz, an artist from a wealthy Polish family. At the time of their introduction, the Count was still married, but not long after his wife became ill and died. Constance and Casimir were married in September of 1901.

Before Christmas of 1901, the Countess gave birth to her only child with Casimir. The girl's name was Maeve and she was to be raised by her grandparents at Lissadel. It was only two years after Maeve's birth that Constance and Casimir moved to Dublin. Constance set out to make herself a name as a landscape artist as well as in the city's social scene.

1906 was a year that saw a great revelation in the Countess' life. She and the Count moved into a cottage outside of Dublin; a cottage that was previously inhabited by the poet and nationalistic minded Padraic Colum. The poet left behind stacks of copies of Sinn Fein and the Peasant magazines, which the Countess read with great interest.

These magazines and the thoughts they expressed helped to form the nationalist feelings of the Countess and bring them to the forefront of her life. In 1908, she joined Sinn Fein, founded only three years earlier by Arthur Griffith, as well as Maude Gonne's Inghinidhe na hEireann. She joined her sister Eva in Manchester at the end of that year, to stand for public office on a social reform platform. There was no chance for success, considering the attitude towards women in politics at the time.

1909 saw the founding of Na Fianna Eireann by the Countess. They were a scouting organisation teaching young people military drill and involving them in outdoor activities. Her legacy in that organisation carries on to this day.

By 1911, Constance was a part of the Sinn Fein executive and was deeply involved in the growing labour unrest in Dublin. It was around this time that she was first arrested for her labour protest activities. During the lockout of 1913, she ran a soup kitchen for the union workers as well as actively protesting in support of leaders such as Larkin, Skeffington and Connolly.

By the time the First World War broke out, Casimir had become unsatisfied with married life and left for the Balkans to fight for the Czar in the Imperial Cavalry. The Countess tried not to let this personal heartbreak affect her work; she joined and led anti-war protests in Dublin as thousands of young Irishmen died in the trenches of the Somme and Ypres.

(Continued tomorrow...)  
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