A powerful poem written by Oglach Martin Hurson just before he joined the 1981 Hunger Strike. He would have turned 62 yesterday. RIP

What compels young men to die?

What compels young men to die
A death so long and cruel
To suffer years of pain and shame
in solitary in jails?

I speak of men like Hughes and Sands, O’Hara and McCreesh
Laying in the blocks of hell where brutality is released.
Untold pain, heartaches, restless lonely nights
Where men find strength within their hearts, to stand for what is right.

Oppression equals slavery and resistance stems from both
And those who fight to end it are soldiers of the truth.

No matter if they recognise the truth in here or not
The products of these years of pain upon them they have brought
This Hunger Strike where young men die not for glory, not for gain
but for recognition of the wars raging through our land.

Lying in their beds this night just bones and clinging flesh
Pale and ashen, cold and worn in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh
They are dying for the people’s cause, not their own or foreign greed
They’ll die if you don’t help them, in this, their hour of need.

With many thanks to: Alex Maskey for the original posting.

On 17th January 1972, a group of Republican POWs, subsequently dubbed the ‘Magnificent Seven,’ escaped from the Maidstone, which was anchored in Belfast Lough.

The overcrowded prison ship, which housed hundreds of nationalist men who had been interned without trial, was supposedly “escape proof.”

Several weeks before the escape, the seven men — Jim Bryson, Sean Convery, Tommy Gorman, Thomas ‘Tucker Kane,’ Martin Taylor, Tommy ‘Toddler’ Tolan and Peter Rodgers — studied the tide by throwing tin cans into the water. On the night of the escape, they smeared themselves with butter they had saved from food parcels to protect against the cold and added a layer of boot polish for extra protection and as camouflage. They then used a fret saw to cut the bar on the ship’s porthole and slipped through.

Although the water surrounding the ship was full of barbed wire, all seven men successfully made their way through it, then swam in a single file about 400 yards through the bitterly cold water to reach the shore. However, they initially landed at the wrong spot and were already behind schedule when they set out, so by the time they made it to the pier on Queens Island, their comrades were nowhere to be seen.

The Maidstone Prison Ship

So they used plan B: Peter Rodgers, dressed only in his soaking underwear, told a bus driver sitting at the Queen’s Road terminus that he had fallen into the lough. The driver lent Rodgers the greatcoat of his uniform and set off on his run to Belfast City Hall.

When the driver returned, he went into the security office and the seven men jumped into the bus, with Rodgers, who had been a bus driver before internment, driving fast so they could get through the main gates before the security guard could close them.

A British Army Land Rover raced after the bus but once it entered the Markets area, the brits backed off, afraid to entering the staunchly Republican area.

In an interview in 2000 with the Andersonstown News, Tommy Gorman described what happened after Rodgers turned the bus in the Markets:

“We crossed the Lagan at Queen’s Bridge, went down Oxford Street and turned into the Markets. You’d have thought everything was planned because as we reached the Markets the kids jumped on the bus and began dismantling it like locusts. We went into a local pub, naked and black and said we’d just jumped off the Maidstone and again you’d have thought it was planned because suddenly people started to undress, handing us ill-fitting trousers and shoes. A man in the bar just handed us the keys to his car saying, away yiz go, and before we knew it we were in billets in Andersonstown.”

That night on television, the british army claimed that the escapees were “surrounded and could not get away” and that they would be arrested in the morning. This was greatly amusing for the Magnificent Seven as they sat in a safehouse in Andersonstown, watching the broadcast!

The following day, the british paratroopers smashed down doors and raided the homes in the Markets but found none of the escapees. Within a week, the Magnificent Seven were giving their now infamous press conference in Dublin.

Jim Bryson was shot by paratroopers in August 1973 and died from his injuries three weeks later.
Tommy Tolan was murdered by the Official IRA in July 1977.
Tommy ‘Tucker’ Kane died in a car accident on the Glen Road in July 1976.

With many thanks to: Gréine Ni Dhochartaigh – Ireland’s Own

Ni Dhochartaigh

On this day 1918, Constance Markievicz became the first woman elected to the UK Parliament and as an Irish republican, revolutionary, nationalist, suffragette and socialist refused to take her seat

Read more about her life and contribution to the women’s struggle here:

REBEL COUNTESS Constance Markiewicz and the Women’s struggle

C. Desmond Greaves, Labour Monthly, February 1968

ON February 4, 1968, falls the centenary of the birth of the first woman to be elected to the Westminster Parliament. (The Connolly Association will be celebrating the 150th annviersary of her birth in Feb 2018 in London – ed). This was not, as is often erroneously said, the sere prophetess of high Toryism, Nancy Astor, but a more vigorous, colourful and refreshing personality—Constance Gore-Booth, later Countess Markievicz,* socialist, feminist and national revolutionary.

She had an astonishing life. Born in London, at 7 Buckingham Gate, her family and entourage wealthy Irish Ascendancy, she was reared at the hereditary ‘big house’, Lissadell on the coast of Co. Sligo. Here she received the education appropriate to her class, riding, hunting, music, painting, dancing and drama, amid that romantic scenery nostalgically recreated by the poet Yeats—a scenery composed of two elements, nature unspoiled where labour brought the peasant no reward, and parkland rendered exotic by use for pure consumption.

The Gore-Booth estate was nevertheless an exception less infrequent in Co. Sligo than in the districts of the great latifundia. Both father and brother were interested in science and exploration and brought a paternalistic attitude to a labour force they were not anxious to lose. They were on the bourgeois fringe of landlordism. Thanks to this, Constance was brought into contact with the co-operative movement founded by Sir Horace Plunkett, and almost simultaneously, with the women’s suffrage movement which appeared in Sligo, with herself leading the way, in the year 1895.

In Paris, where she studied art, she met Count Markiewicz, a Polish country squire talented in the arts, and was married in London in 1900. The couple settled in Dublin, where they worked with the famous figures of the literary renaissance. Her political history is an apt illustration of Marian Ramelson’s** thesis that in subject nations the women secure emancipation in the victory of the national movement. But it needs emphasising that even then they do not do so without a struggle.

The Home Rule Party did not admit women into membership. As a result Maud Gonne with a number of associates established Inini na hEireann (Daughters of Ireland) into which Constance Markievicz was inevitably recruited. But she was dissatisfied with spending her energies solely in a feminine auxiliary. Drawing closer to the revolutionaries of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, she was, with their aid and somewhat to the moderate Griffith’s distaste, admitted to membership and elected to the national executive committee of Sinn Fein.

Together with Bulmer Hobson she founded the revolutionary boys’ organisation Na Fianna Eireann some of whose leaders were executed in 1916. She secured the support of James Connolly in an endeavour to open this organisation to girls, and indeed won a victory at the 1912 convention. A postal ballot subsequently reversed the decision much to the disgust of Connolly’s two daughters. Her drive for sex equality was taking her steadily to the left, and it is not surprising that she found it eventually only in the ranks of the Labour movement.

The occasion was the great Transport lock-out of 1913-14 in Dublin, when she threw herself into the struggle with unsurpassed energy, organising the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union’s food kitchens and looking after the locked-out workers’ creature comforts in innumerable ways. It was at this time that she joined the Irish Citizen Army, which, while it insisted that all eligible to do so should hold a trade union card, took no account of sex. In her capacity as an officer of that force, and not as a member of the women’s auxiliary of the Volunteers (Cumann na mBan) she took a leading part in the Easter insurrection, being second in command at Stephens Green. She was arrested, tried by court martial, sentenced to death, but reprieved on account of her sex— the reason displeasing her if not the fact.

While in Holloway jail she learned that she had been elected to Parliament as member for Dublin South-west, and chuckled when she received David Lloyd George’s invitation to attend its opening. The twenty-six Sinn Fein Deputies who were not in jail met in Dublin on January 21, 1919, and decided to boycott Westminster and to establish themselves as the constituent assembly of an independent Ireland. Constance Markievicz adhered to these. She was released on March 10, and on April 2 became the first woman Cabinet Minister outside Soviet Russia, Minister for Labour in the Republican Government.

She had thus vindicated the right of women’s access to the highest offices of state, military and political. Undoubtedly, this achievement was facilitated by the existence of the general democratic movement of national liberation. After failing in its military effort to suppress the people’s power in Ireland the British Government engineered a political settlement tolerable to itself, and the era of neo-colonialism in Ireland began. Constance Markievicz took the uncompromisingly Republican side in the struggle that ensued, as did her former followers in Cumann na mBan and Na Fianna Eireann.

It is noticeable that one of the gains of the revolutionary period which was retained was the equality of voting rights for women which was provided for in the many ways retrograde Irish Free State Constitution. Irish women had equal access to the ballot box seven years before their sisters in England, and only two years after the American women won the nineteenth amendment after threequarters of a century of struggle. Today only Switzerland in Western Europe still excludes women from the vote, and according to United Nations figures published in 1966, out of 130 countries women are ineligible for the vote in eight only, a further eight imposing certain restrictions upon them. In the field of access to the highest positions, however, the situation is far less favourable. And in the field of economic equality a revolution has yet to be started.

Countess Markievicz was well aware of the need to bring the women into the trade union movement, and gave help in the early years of the Irish Women Workers’ Union, founded in 1911. Her sister, Eva Gore-Booth, the poet, had founded the Manchester and Salford Women’s Trades Council with a view to combining the proletarian and democratic tasks of working women. Today, despite serious deficiencies in access to employment, and in many countries, discriminatory legal provisions (e.g. in relation to marriage, custody of children, parental control, nationality, property and contract) it is indisputable that the most widespread and glaring inequalities are economic.

Even in Ireland and Britain (not to mention EEC where to use UNO jargon there is ‘a discrepancy between law and fact’) the long advocated equal remuneration for work of equal value is yet to be achieved. Into this and other matters it is announced in 1968 that the Labour Party will make a ‘sweeping probe’. Such a probe would still be necessary everywhere outside the socialist countries. And except in the socialist countries the political gains won by the women during the national liberation struggle have yet to be extended throughout the economic field.

In this connection reference must be made to neo-colonialism, which carries forward the system of exploitation of the old colonialism under reorganised management, and produces the same economic backwardness and imbalance in forms exaggerated as a result of the deeper crisis of imperialism.

Neo-colonialism is probably the most serious influence holding back the progress of women on a world scale, and assuredly those who suffer from it today will win their freedom in the national movement to throw off that yoke, as in the conditions of earlier days their mothers and grandmothers did before them. In doing so they can be assured of the support of the progressive forces in the imperialist countries, and not least of the women’s organisations of those countries, who are increasingly alive to the problem.

To the great democratic movement which will lead to the final emancipation of half the human race, the memory of Constance Markiewicz should serve as a special inspiration.

* The correct spelling is of course Markiewicz, and so the Count always spelled his name. The Countess, at any rate later in life, used the v, doubtless so that her name should not be mis-pronounced by speakers of English.

** The Petticoat Rebellion, Lawrence & Wishart

With many thanks to: Connolly Association

Follow this link for the Connolly Association: https://www.facebook.com/connollyassociation/

61 years ago at midnight the Irish Republican Army (IRA) launched, ‘Operation Harvest’ (also known as the ‘Border Campaign’).

The campaign began with a series of attacks on British military, administrative and communication properties across the northern state – eleven attacks in all.

The republican forces were made up, broadly, of four flying columns – modelled on the columns of the earlier campaign of 1919-23. This strategy was the brainchild of Sean Cronin, a journalist who had returned to Ireland from New York, subsequently rising through the ranks of the IRA.

The three dominant personalities within the movement at this time were the “three Macs”; Paddy McLogan, Tony Magan and Tomás MacCurtain, son of the murdered Lord Mayor of Cork. Cronin’s strategy envisaged the use of columns made up predominantly of southern Volunteers, operating from across the border, launching strikes into the northern state.

Many of those who would later become senior leadership in various republican organisations were involved in this campaign.

These include Seamus Costello who led the attack on Magherafelt court house (later INLA chief-of-staff), Sean Garland (later senior Official IRA member), Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Daithí Ó Conaill (two of the founders of the Provisional IRA).

Cathal Goulding and Seán MacStiofáin, respective future chiefs-of-staff of the Official and Provisional IRA, were serving prison sentences in England during the campaign for their part in an arms raid during its build-up.

With many thanks to the: James Connolly Association Australia.

This Celtic Cross stands in a graveyard in Perth, Australia dedicated to the Irish Republican Brotherhood

“He whispered goodbye to his comrades so dear,

His head upon his knapsack gently lay.
If you ever see my home,
tell my mother I’m alone,
and i’m buried in an Irish rebel’s grave.”

The second largest Irish National monument in Australia is found in of all places Gympie, a regional country town north west of Brisbane.

The towering celtic cross, adorned with the harp, wolfhound and round tower was unveiled in 1911 to the Fenian John Flood , who was one of the 62 felons transported onboard the last convict ship, the Hougoumont in 1868.

Not all of the other Fenians returned to Ireland, many like John Boyle O’Reilly escaped or were given free passage to America. At least 19 never managed to leave Australia’s ‘fatal shore’ and their remains lay throughout the country.

Here is a list of those Australian Fenian Graves:

Luke Fullam (died 24/02/1870) & his brother Laurence (died (1871) are both buried somewhere in what was the old Skinner Street Cemetery, Fremantle. A school was later built on top of the graves that hadn’t been moved.

Patrick Keating (died 27/01/1874) was buried beside the Fullam brothers in the old Fremantle Cemetery.

Cornelius O’Mahoney (died 06/03/1879) buried in Melbourne’s Central Cemetery Carlton, under an ornate celtic cross, stating that he was ‘a released political prisoner’.

John Goulding (died 02/09/1883) buried in Gerringong Cemetery on New South Wales’ south coast.

Joseph Nunan (died 18/05/1885) buried in East Perth Cemetery, W.A.

Cornelius Dwyer Kane (died 28/10/1891) buried somewhere in an unmarked grave in Limestown on the old Palmers gold fields of north Queensland.

John Donoghue (died 28/02/1901) buried Jarrahdale Cemetery, south east of Perth.

John Lynch (01/11/1906) buried in Williams Old Cemetery, south east of Perth.

John Flood (died 22/08/1909) buried Gympie Cemetery, Qld.

Thomas Duggan (died 24/12/1913) buried in an unmarked grave in East Perth Cemetery.

James Kiely (died 31/10/1918) buried Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth.

Hugh Brophy (died 11/06/1919) buried alongside Cornelius O’Mahoney in Melbourne’s Central Cemetery, Carlton.

James Kearney (died 23/05/1923) buried Nannup Cemetery, southern W.A.

Patrick Kileen (died 01/09/1925) buried Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth.

Nothing is known of the last resting place of the following, other than that their is no record of them having left Australia:

Daniel Bradley
Bartholomew Moriarty
Patrick Wall
James Flood
Michael Cody

Michael Cody remains the greatest mystery, his date of death and final resting place are unknown but he had lived in Sydney and according John Devoy he was the local head of the Irish Republican Brotherhood.

“fill us once more, we’ll drink a toast to comrades far away,
no nation upon earth can boast of braver hearts than they.
And though they sleep in dungeons deep,
or flee, outlawed and banned;
We love them yet, we can’t forget the Felons of our land.”

With many thanks to: James Connolly Association Australia

The Gibbet Rath Massacre.

Refers to the execution of several hundred rebels by British forces during the United Irish Rebellion of 1798 at the Curragh of Kildare on 29 May 1798.

The United Irishmen’s rebellion in 1798 was strongly supported in the Kildare area, and it was on the Curragh of Kildare that the worst atrocities and suppression of the rising were witnessed.
The rebels took over a number of towns in the Kildare area and having held the government forces at bay for over a week they negotiated favorable surrender terms with Lieutenant General Sir Ralph Dundas, Commander of the Midland District Militia. They were to proceed to the Gibbet Rath on the Curragh on the May 29th, where they would hand up their arms and would be allowed to return to their homes unharmed.
Large numbers of rebels gathered at the Gibbet Rath to meet General Dundas. Unfortunately for them, Dundas was called away before he could accept their surrender. Instead General Sir James Duff, a ruthless English Officer, arrived with his army which included a regiment known as Roden’s Foxhunters led by Viscount Jocelyn, a leading racing man whose father the Earl of Roden was one of the original founders of the Turf Club in Kildare town. General Duff had been informed that a solider from Rommey’s Fencibles was knocked from his horse and killed on the Curragh. He was outraged and vowed to avenge the death. Reports from Kildare town on the eve of the massacre stated that several of Roden’s Foxhunters, in a riotous and drunken state, marched through the streets with fixed bayonets swearing loudly “we are the boys who will slaughter the croppies tomorrow at the Curragh”. This behavior deterred many rebels from proceeding to the Curragh thereby saving many lives.
On the faithful day, May 29, 1798 the rebels assembled at the Gibbet Rath where they handed in their weapons. They were immediately surrounded by General Duff and his forces which, besides Roden’s Light Dragoons, included the Monasterevan cavalry along with other militia. Duff ordered his army to “charge and spare no rebel”. Over 350 men were slaughtered as they fled in panic, many more were badly injured but feigned death until calm prevailed. It was reported that in one street alone in Kildare that night, 85 widows were counted. Within a 10 mile radius of the Curragh there was hardly a house or cottage that didn’t have a father, brother or son killed. Some of the rebels were buried in Kildangan and their names are recorded there. Others were buried in the Grey Abby in Kildare and some in Nurney.

With many thanks to: Clan na Gael.