The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins in a recent letter to the Cork Mother Jones Committee sends his best wishes to all involved in organising the 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. He praises Mother Jones as a catalyst for change and an emancipatory figure to whom we all owe a great deal of gratitude.
On the eve of first conference of the festival, entitled The Dynamic Role of the Labour Unions in the wake of Covid-19 and the Safe-keeping of Front Line Workers in partnership with University College Cork Civic Engagement, President Higgins in his message to the organisers expresses his solidarity with all those workers whose contribution is so vital during the current Covid-19 pandemic.
President Higgins expresses the hope that their protection, job security and decent working conditions will prevail and that work as an enriching human activity will be the version of work that prevails.
Welcoming the President’s letter of support for the 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, James Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee stated
“We are delighted with this very positive message from President Higgins to the organisers of the festival and for his warm tribute to the powerful, gritty and sustained contribution of Cork born Mother Jones to the labour movement in the United States.
The President’s visionary call for this Covid-19 crisis to provide an opportunity to rethink the connections between climate neutrality, a sustainable economy, social welfare and labour itself is very welcome.
The ninth Spirit of Mother Jones festival opens online on Friday 27th November at 3pm with University College Cork hosting a webinar with a number of trade union speakers participating. Among those taking part are Phil Ni Sheaghdha, General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, Ann Piggott, President of the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland and Edward Lahiff of the Irish Federation of University Teachers. (Click to register this event only)
He expresses solidarity and support for the thousands of front-line workers who continue to put their lives at risk for the benefit of fellow citizens and calls on people to commemorate the thousands of workers throughout the world who in the service of others have already lost their lives. ”
Cork Singer Club on Sunday 8.30pm live on the Cork Singers’ Club Facebook page.
UACHTARÅN NA hEIREANN
PRESIDENT OF IRELAND
Message by President Michael D. Higgins
To the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2020′
27th November 2020
May I send my best wishes to all those involved in organising the 2020 ‘Spirit of Mother Jones Festival’, as well as all those attending the event. This year we gather together virtually with our fellow workers across the globe to mark the 90th anniversary of Cork-born Mary Harris’s death on 30th November 1930.
In the great, significant moments of the labour movement, we can identify moments when a single individual becomes a catalyst for positive change. Mary ‘Mother’ Jones is one such figure, among those emancipatory figures, to whom we all owe a great deal of gratitude. A survivor of the Great Famine, the Yellow Fever Epidemic of Memphis and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which robbed her of her home, family and livelihood, as well as the so-called ‘Spanish Flu’ Pandemic of 1918/19, Mother Jones was a woman of enormous grit and vigour. Yet, despite the toll of such personal struggle and tragedy, she found and mustered the resolve that enabled her to contribute so much to the labour movement in the United States over a period of several decades.
We gather together at a time of unprecedented risk for those who work tirelessly and selflessly in our health services, and those who ensure the continued delivery of essential services and utilities on which our citizens depend. Your conference is taking place as we face the challenge of dealing with a pandemic that is having such devastating personal, social and economic consequences.
However, out of such a crisis we are presented with perhaps a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do things better, to embrace and bring to fruition a new paradigm of existence with each other, in relation to work and living, and with the world itself; a renewed and healthier symbiosis of society, economy and ecology. The pandemic provides an opportunity to rethink the connections between climate neutrality, a sustainable economy, social welfare and labour itself.
The appropriate role Mother Jones would seek for trade unions, the labour movement and egalitarians of every hue is working together to give a lead. Work, above all else, is a human activity and given that in its form, conditions and purpose must have the participation, thought, design and sense of collectivity that comes from being a trade union member and activist.
Today let us commemorate the many thousands around the world who have, through their generous and willing efforts in the service of others, lost their own lives to COVID19, giving their lives for others with whom they shared the public world. Let us remember and celebrate also the many thousands more who continue to put their lives at risk in order to continue their important work, work that is for the benefit of their fellow citizens.
To all those workers who have responded to the Coronavirus crisis with such a generous spirit of solidarity, we owe an enormous debt of gratitude. However, gratitude, whose expression is so important, cannot be, and must never be, perceived as any adequate substitute for the dignity, well-being, and security of employment which is the right of all workers in any fair and inclusive society for which Mother Jones fought tirelessly.
As we navigate our way towards a shared and better future, we must resolve to build a lasting memorial to those brave and selfless workers who have been too easily left out of the pages of history. Let it be our battle cry, too, that battle cry of Mary ‘Mother’ Jones, and the motto that lies at the heart of this important day: “Remember the dead, fight like hell for the living”.
Today, as we reflect on the dynamic role of trade unions in the wake of the pandemic and the safe-keeping of our front-line workers, let us all commit to continuing our appreciation by standing in solidarity with all those whose contribution is so vital during this difficult time, recognising and enabling their right to protection, to be represented, to participate, to job security and decent working conditions now and into the future, where work will, in an enduring way, be recognised for the enriching human activity that it can be, and must in post-pandemic society be the version of work that prevails.
I wish your festival every success.
Michael D. Higgins
Uachtarån na hÉireann
President of Ireland
Friday 27th November
3:00 p.m. The Dynamic Role of Labour Unions in the Wake of Covid-19 and
the Safe Keeping of Front-Line Workers”
A Partner Event with University College Cork Civic Engagement and the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival
Speakers: Phil Ní Sheaghdha (INMO), Ann Piggott (ASTI), Dr Edward Lahiff (IFUT)
Co-ordinated by Dr John Barimo.
Click Here for direct webinar access at the time of the event.
7.30 p.m. Introduction by Cllr Joe Kavanagh, Lord Mayor of Cork
“What Did the Women Do Anyway?”
A discussion with Anne Twomey of the Shandon Area History Group
Saturday 28th November
11.00 a.m. Tadhg Barry Remembered
Documentary film by Frameworks Films in collaboration with the Cork Council of Trade Unions.
2:30 p.m. “Ahawadda to Dáil Eireann: the amazing story of Sean Dunne, union organiser”
Discussion with historian Diarmuid Kingston
3:30 p.m. “And the World Turns Away” Discussion with Peadar King
7:00 p.m. “Cork Burning” A power point presentation by Michael Lenihan
8:00 p.m. An evening with Jimmy Crowley at the Firkin Theatre
Sunday 29th November
Mother Jones Festival Archives
11:00 a.m. 2:30 p.m. 4:00 p.m.
“The story of Hillsborough” with Margaret Aspinall (2013) “Error of Judgement” with Chris Mullin (2015)
“One Woman’s Fight for Justice” with Louise O’Keeffe (2018)
Sunday evening with the Cork Singers’ Club
(Zoom and live on Cork Singers’ Club Facebook page)
If anyone wishes to participate email John Murphy
Monday 30th November
Mother Jones Commemoration Day: 90th Anniversary
3:00 p.m. 4:00 p.m. 7.00 p.m.
“Ellen Cotter and Inchigeela in the 1800s” by Joe Creedon (2019) “The story of Mother Jones” by Professor Elliott J Gorn (2019)
Mother Jones and her Children
Documentary by Frameworks Films
“Shandon in the time of Mother Jones”
Narrated by Kieran McCarthy
8:30 p.m. Mother Jones: America’s Most Dangerous Woman By Rosemary Feurer
8:45 p.m. “Mother Jones visits Shandon in 1920”
With Joan Goggin
9:00 p.m. The legacy of Mother Jones. Tributes to Mother Jones
Times and Link at http://www.corkcommunitytv.ie or Virgin Media 803 on the box. Check the schedule on Cork Community TV for final times and repeats.
(Full programme and times on http://www.motherjonescork.com and Facebook)
Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in partnership with
University College Cork Civic & Community Engagement
27 November 2020, 3.00 – 4.00 pm (Irish GMT)
We are at critical juncture for trade unions and worker’s rights during this period of economic stress, joblessness, and wealth concentration. Education and healthcare professions are among those front-line workers who now face increased health and safety risks. Join Dr Edward Lahiff (IFUT National Executive) in conversation with Ms. Ann Piggott, President of the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI) and Ms. Phil Ni Sheaghdha, General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) on the role of Unions in leading the way forward.
With both health and education sectors providing vital services to society, panellists consider how the global pandemic will reframe issues of labour rights and workplace safety over the next decade.
To Register: (see below)
This event will be hosted live and broadcast using Microsoft Teams.
· Dr. Edward Lahiff (moderator), Branch Chair of the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) at University College Cork.
· Ms. Phil Ni Sheaghdha, General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO);
· Ms. Ann Piggott, President of the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI);
Organised by Dr. John Barimo in partnership with University College Cork Civic & Community Engagement.
There will be a couple of ways for people to register and attend the Live Event webinar.
1. You can pre-register with Eventbrite. Eventbrite is programmed to send email reminders 24-hours and 1-hour before the event, so less likely to forget. Click Here to Register
2. Click Here for direct webinar access at the time of the event.
IMPORTANT: This event will be broadcast on Microsoft Teams. If you have not used Microsoft Teams in the past, please allow yourself a few extra moments before the event. *You do not need to download the MS Teams app. When you click the link to join simply (1) select option ‘Join on Web Instead’. (2) On next screen select ‘Join Anonymously’.
Photos: Phil Ni Sheaghdha, Ann Piggott, Dr. Edward Lahiff, Dr. John Barimo.
The Cork Mother Jones Committee is proud to announce that the 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Award will be presented to Antoinette Keegan of the Stardust Victims Committee.
Antoinette and her mother Christine Keegan were due to speak in Cork at this year’s Spirit of Mother Jones Summer school. Sadly, Christine passed away in July after a lifetime of fighting for justice for the Stardust victims.
The Keegan family have been central to the efforts for the past 40 years to investigate the causes of the fire. The recent announcement of a new inquest into the victims of the Stardust Fire is testament to the determination of Antoinette and her family and the Stardust Victims committee to pursue the truth of the night of the 13/14th February in 1981.
The Cork Mother Jones Committee citation is as follows;
“The Spirit of Mother Jones Award is awarded this year to Ms. Antoinette Keegan of the Stardust Victims Committee for her determination, resilience and longstanding efforts to pursue truth, accountability and justice for the Stardust victims and their families over almost 40 years.
Antoinette and her late mother Christine and father John have pursued answers to what happened at the Stardust fire on 14th February 1981, where 48 young people lost their lives, including Antoinette’s sisters Mary and Martina.
In spite of her own injuries, the loss of her sisters, and the failure of the Authorities to provide answers, Antoinette has continued to actively campaign to uncover the full truth of the events of that night. She is an inspiration to so many!
For her bravery, courage and commitment, Antoinette Keegan is a very worthy recipient of the 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Award.”
The award has been presented each year since 2013 by this committee to the person we feel most represents the fighting spirit of Mother Jones, who was born Mary Harris here in Cork in July 1837 and went on to become known throughout the world as Mother Jones. She fought for the rights of workers and the trade union movement and was involved in numerous campaigns
We will arrange to present the award representing The Children of Lir to Antoinette as soon as it becomes safe to do so in view of the current Covid-19 situation. It is hoped Antoinette will be able to come to Cork to speak at the Spirit of Mother Jones summer school in 2021.
For details of the 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival which will take place online between the 27th and the 30th Novembersee www.motherjonescork.com. The full programme of events will appear this coming weekend.
Previous recipients of this award have been
2013, Margaret Aspinall of the Hillsborough Family Support Group.
2014, Gareth Peirce, Solicitor
2015 Fr. Peter McVerry.
2016 Dave Hopper, RIP Durham Miners’ Association
2017 Ken Fleming, International Transport Workers Federation
2018 Mary Manning, (Dunnes Stores Workers)
2019 Louise O’Keeffe.
2020 Antoinette Keegan.
The Revolutionary period and the subsequent creation of the Irish Free State and later the Republic has given rise to some amazing family stories. Very few can surpass the story of Sean Dunne, a Trade Union organiser, mentored by Jim Larkin and later Labour Party TD.
Filmed in West Cork, this discussion with local historian and author Diarmuid Kingston reveals the account of the Ahawadda Ambush (located on the road to Ring outside Timoleague) on 10th May1920, in which three Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) lost their lives in an ambush. This was the greatest loss of life of old RIC members in a single ambush in West Cork during the War of Independence.
Among them was Constable Edward Dunne from Co Laois. He was 32 years old, married to Bridget Coppinger, a school teacher with two children. Their young son Sean, was born in December 1918 in Timoleague. Constable Edward Dunne was buried quietly in Raheen in Co Laois.
Sean grew up in Waterford and Wicklow and in the late 30s was arrested and served time in the Curragh Internment Camp for Republican activities. He came under the influence of Jim Larkin and the Workers’ Union of Ireland and became one of the most effective union organisers in rural Ireland in the 1940s, founding the Federation of Rural Workers (FRW), which had up to 20,000 members at its height.
As its General Secretary, he organised countless strikes among rural workers and was instrumental in campaigning for and obtaining the weekly half day for his members in the early 1950s.
Later he was elected a TD for the Labour Party, when he was just 28 years old, and became one of the most colourful elected public representatives in the Dail. He had the record of being ejected from two parliaments, Dail Eireann and Stormont, as well as British Labour Party conferences.. Once labelled “an extreme communist” by Sean MacEntee,
Sean Dunne was described by one political correspondent as being “in daily conflict with Authority on cases of social justice, on the side of the lost nobodies of the world”.
His famous Leabhar Ballyfermot which he always carried contained the details of his constituents’ problems. Trade union organiser, writer, playwright, orator, Irish speaker and campaigner for social justice, this west Cork born politician died suddenly following the General Election in 1969.
His funeral at the Pro-Cathedral was attended by President Eamonn De Valera, Taoiseach Jack Lynch, Fine Gael Leader Liam Cosgrave and the Cabinet and thousands of workers.
He had travelled a very long road in life and his virtual State funeral was in stark contrast to that of his father who was buried quietly in a graveyard in Co Laois almost 50 years earlier.
In this film documentary discussion with Diarmuid Kingston, we look at the Ahawadda Ambush and we examine the subsequent life of Sean Dunne T.D, a remarkable trade union organiser.
Diarmuid is the author of Beleaguered (A History of the RIC in West Cork during the War of Independence) and has written extensively on the period.
The film will be shown during the forthcoming Spirit of Mother Jones festival and forms part of our contribution to Cork Commemoration 1920-23.
Visit www.motherjonescork.com and festival Facebook from November 23rd for the full programme as well as the links to join in the festival from Thursday 27th November to Monday 30th November.
Peadar King is a journalist and documentary film maker and is well known as the producer of the documentary series for RTE “What in the World”.His latest book published recently by Liffey Press, War, Suffering and the Struggle for Human Rights is a powerful indictment of warandchronicles human rights abuses in times of conflict. Peadar interviews people from war zones whose descriptions of the impact of war and the horrible devastation which follows are heartbreaking.
He states that “all wars are based on lies” and uses the Irish phrase “Chroi Bhriste” to describe the unspeakable horror endured by those who suffer.
The very human accounts in this book of the results of war are taken from interviews with the ordinary people and they paint in graphic detail the indiscriminate destruction of bombs on people and their communities.
Have we become inured to war? We can now watch versions of wars on our TVs and computers, but to many it’s more virtual clickbait with neither the impacts, the questions, context nor explanation sought nor provided.
Yet, Europe, the UK, the USA, Russia and China supply 75% of all weapons used in these wars which are fought over power, resources and oil and in the near future…. fresh water supplies!.
“And The World Turns Away” features a discussion with Peadar King and will be shown during the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.
This was a dismissive comment originally made to a founder of Cumann na mBan In Cork, Lil Conlon.
Years later the comment also annoyed members of the Shandon Area History Group.
The result was Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times published in 2019 by the Shandon Area History Group.
This ground breaking publication reveals some of the hidden pages of the story of eleven Cork women who took part in the War of Independence and Civil War in Cork. Varying from the internationally recognised Mary MacSwiney to the almost invisible Wallace sisters, the stories of these ordinary women remained largely untold until now.As part of the forthcoming Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, a documentary called “What did the Women do Anyway?” featuring a discussion with historian Anne Twomey of the Shandon Area History Group about these remarkable women will be shown as part of the festival’s contribution to the Cork Commemoration 1920-1923.
Filmed by Frameworks Films one can hear of the story of the Wallace Sisters, of the opera singer Kate ‘Birdy’ Conway the issue of violence against women, the failure to acknowledge the womens selfless contribution to the War of Independence and the ongoing efforts to ensure the role of other women such as Muriel Murphy and Nora O’Brein are recognised.
Back in 1949, Tom Barry in his Guerrilla Days in Ireland stated that the women “were a splendid body of young women and their value to the IRA was well appreciated by the enemy” . One may well ask were these women ever really appreciated by the IRA or the leaders of the new Irish State?
The discussion with Anne Twomey, What Did the Women Do Anyway will be available online during the forthcoming 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival (27th-30th November). Links and the full programme of events will appear on www.motherjonescork.com. and Facebook.
Our thanks to the Shandon Area History group for their assistance and for photos. Check out their Facebook page to obtain a copy of the book, Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times.
photograph 2 Anne Twomey.
Photograph 3 The Wallace Sister (Sheila and Nora
Photograph 4 The Cork Cumann Na mBan.
Photograph 5 Peg Duggan
Photograph 6 Emma Hourigan
Photograph 7 Nora O’Sullivan
There is no evidence that Mary Harris/Mother Jones ever did return to Cork city where she was born in 1837 and left after the Great Hunger in the 1840s.
However for the purposes of the imagination, we imagine Mother Jones visiting her childhood home and streets in Shandon just before Christmas 1920 after the burning of Cork City.
Taking the lead role is actress Joan Goggin know to all as Cork’s own Mother Jones. Joan’s family, especially her Dad had an involvement in the labour/trade union movement for many years and the famous union leader Jim Larkin sometimes stayed in their house when visiting Cork.
The film also features a series of flashbacks to the 1840s where Joan is joined by her daughter Eadaoin Delaney who plays the role of Ellen Cotter, Mary Harris’s mother. Joan’s granddaughter Aoife plays a young Mary Harris skipping on the streets of Shandon.
In a remarkable twist of faith, in her soliloquy at Shandon, Mother Jones recalls her only son named Terence who was born in 1865, but who tragically died in the Memphis yellow fever epidemic in October 1867 and acknowledges Cork’s Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney who had died a few weeks earlier in October 1920.
This short film entitled Mother Jones Returns to Shandon was filmed in and around the Streets of Shandon by Frameworks Films.
All events will be streamed by Frameworks Films for the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2020 and will be freely available to view by all.
Full programme of events will appear here and the Mother Jones Cork Facebook by mid-November.
This publication is a rarity. Working-class women who fight for social justice seldom get an opportunity to tell their own story in their own voices.Social, union and labour history is sometimes interpreted by far removed from the day to day lives and experience of those directly involved. The contributions of working class women remains unacknowledgedisible when it comes to their absence of their names and images on the public monuments and street names of our cities and towns.
Anne Scargill and Betty Cook did not come together until the beginning of the Miners’ strike in 1984 when they joined The Women Against Pit Closures Movement. What followed was a roller coaster of practical action such as feeding their striking neighbours and taking direct action to protect their communities.
However it also led to a personal journey for each of them. Both were married with families at the start of the strike but through the tumult of the mining war in the North of England, along with education and a passion to stand against exploitation of people, they achieved their own personal independence and freedom in spite of the disastrous outcome of the miners strike. In the midst of defeat, Anne and Betty emerged with the power to act and they had discovered their own voices.
Their accounts of their early lives in Barnsley and Brick Lane are told in raw unvarnished personal accounts, without self pity, without preaching or seeking acceptance…… life was tough in the coal fields. Yet they tell their stories with gritty humour, compassion and fierce direct humanity in spite of personal tragedy and upheaval in their lives.The chapter on Rent A Mob, Rent a Gob leaves one angry and yet uplifted.
Today they look back on a life of standing firm against the exploitation of workers and they do so with a sense of pride. Betty retired from a call-centre at the age of 81, she is worried that ” a lot of working-class people are against one another” while Anne announces that “anybody who needs help on a picket line only has to pick up the phone and I’ll be there”. Their trip to the women miners reunion in Appalachia 2013 organised by Marat Moore (see below) led to the founding of The Daughters of Mother Jones group in the UK and their interest in Mother Jones. Few will forget their powerful rendition of Mal Finch’s song “Women of the Working Class” at the Cork Spirit of Mother Jones festival in 2014.
In these dark times for working people with ongoing political upheaval and Covid-19 lockdowns, Anne & Betty United by the Struggle illuminates and shines warmly through adversity, hard times and the necessity to keep fighting against injustice.
This book is highly recommended and is available from email@example.com
Photo 1 Anne & Betty United by the Struggle.
Photo 1 Anne & Betty with their Daughter of Mother Jones banner at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in 2019. (Courtesy of Claire Stack).
Photo 2 Anne & betty helping striking SIPTU workers in Dublin in 2014 (Courtesy J Thomson)
Photo 3 Marat Moore, Rosemary Feurer and Elliott Gorn with the Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr. John Buttimer in 2012.