Some Memories of the Tenth Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2021.

The tenth Spirit of Mother Jones Festival concluded on Sunday night 28th November 2021 with the songs of the Cork Singers’ Club.

The 2021 festival programme required a miracle due to the deterioration in the Covid-19 situation in Ireland and yet the Cork Mother Jones committee and friends ensured the completion of 20 events over the four days and managed to broadcast most of them on Cork Community Television. The extent of the collaboration we received from numerous groups, organisations and individuals to create a festival demonstrates that there is no substitute for people working cooperatively. 

Taking the example of the resilient spirit of Mother Jones as the road map, everyone just “ploughed on”,  (while ensuring full compliance with the Covid-19 regulations to keep people safe), we achieved our aim to carry through with the ambitious programme of events.

Poster of 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival designed by Shannon Smyth.

Highlight for those lucky to be in attendance was the presentation of the Spirit of Mother Jones Award to the brave representatives of the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance (CSSA).

Following the televised broadcast of the thought provoking conversation between Catherine Coffey O’Brien and Maureen Considine of the Alliance, they were joined by Phil Kinsella and Sheila O’Boyle for the formal presentation of the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Award by James Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee. 

It was an emotional occasion!

One is however left to ponder at the ongoing silence of so many and to wonder how this country can even consider allowing planning applications for development/construction of apartments to take place on the OSI marked burial grounds of hundreds of children?  In spite of our reputation for mourning and honouring our dead, why are marked burial grounds no longer deemed sacred from development and are the hundreds of children whom we as a nation failed in the past to protect not allowed to now rest in peace?

Earlier, adoption rights campaigner Mari Steel who had herself been adopted from Bessborough in the early 60s discussed her journey to locate her own mother Josie. 

A number of Q&A sessions with each of the speakers at the Maldron Hotel followed the Cork Community TV transmissions and the subsequent discussions, arguments and queries were reminders of the sparkle and sparks associated with many of the Spirit of Mother Jones meetings over the past decade. We appreciated the kind comments of Cllr John Sheehan deputising for the Lord Mayor who as he formally opened the festival stated that “he eagerly looked forward to the challenging programme of events at the festival each year as it was essential in any functioning democracy that people ask the hard questions”.

From the tragedy of Tadhg Barry, who spent his entire adult life working in the engine room of the revolution in Cork to the eventful and long life of Muriel MacSwiney, an unlikely revolutionary, the debates and sharing of information went on. The late and much loved Dr Sean Pettit could be seen once again displaying his legendary oratorical skills describing the Cork City of Mary Harris and much more. His final public performance displayed his creative approach to his lectures and his love of Cork City highlighted how he provided the stimulus for generations of local Cork historians.

We did not forget Mother Jones either and many of the documentaries at the festival sought to frame the American background and landscape in which Mother Jones operated in the early 20th Century. We appreciate the assistance of our friends, in America, UK and Greece. Her memory was enhanced in Cork through the efforts of singers such as John Murphy, Cait Ni Cheallachair, William Hammond, Karan Casey, Richard T Cooke and Mags Creedon who performed songs and stories relating to the life of Mother Jones. John and Gearoid Nyhan accompanied by Mick Treacy performed “Let the Mountains Roll”.  Our thanks to the Cork Folk Festival and Cork Singers’ Club for their invaluable assistance. Cork’s own Mother Jones, Joan Goggin and her family Eadaoin and Aoife supporting the event all the way.

As the tenth festival recedes into the memory, so many people and organisations should be thanked. Without Eddie Noonan and the crew of Frameworks Films and Cork Community Television, the festival could not have happened in these never ending Covid days. We really appreciate the practical support our main sponsors such as Cork City Council, Cathedral Credit Union, the ASTI, SIPTU and the INTO as well as the assistance of the Shandon Maldron Hotel and WhazOn Cork which have continued to assist us even as we cannot have normal social gatherings and discussions which were always the heart, soul and magic of the Spirit of Mothers Jones festivals. 

Our thanks go to all the participants this year who give of their time on a voluntary basis to contribute to the events, to designers Abbie O’Shea and Shannon Smyth, website administrator Ferdia O’Mahony and to Ciaran Cronin and Aidan Fitzpatrick of A to Z printers. For 2021 we wish to especially thank the Centre for Community and Civic Engagement in University College Cork for promoting and assisting the formal launch of the festival back in October on the beautiful grounds of UCC.

Our collaboration with the Centre For Earth Ethics in New York with respect to the Mona Pollaca interview was innovative.  Finally we are thankful to the journalists at the Evening Echo, Irish Examiner, Irish Times, Southern Star and 96FM for providing local and national coverage of the events as many normal community publicity channels were closed due to Covid-19.

As a committee we now look forward to working on the next Spirit of Mother Jones festival in 2022.

If anyone has ideas for topics, for speakers or for entertainment for this 2022 festival, please drop a brief email to motherjonescork@gmail.com and we will consider all suggestions.

Some of the extensive press coverage of the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival follows:    

https://www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/columnists/arid-40751109.html

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/mother-and-baby-home-campaigners-honoured-with-mother-jones-award-1.4737326

https://www.echolive.ie/corknews/arid-40750860.html

https://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/artsandculture/arid-40752849.html

https://www.irishpost.com/news/cork-mother-and-baby-home-campaigners-honoured-with-award-224813

https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/munster/arid-40751139.html

Day 3 of the Spirit of Mother Jones 0nline Festival 2021.

Saturday 27 November 2021                                                                                      

·         2:00 pm. Blood on the Mountain produced by Mari-Lynn Evans.

·         4:00 pm. Palikari:  Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre by Lamprini C Tomas and Nickos Ventouras.

·         6:00 pm. Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America by Rosemary Feurer.

·         6:30 pm. Interview (zoom) with Mari Steed, Adoption Rights campaigner.

·         7:00 pm. Maureen Considine and Catherine Coffey O’Brien of the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance, CSSA discuss their effort to safeguard the Bessborough Burial ground.

All events are available on Cork Community Television at http://www.corkcommunitytv.ie or Virgin Media Channel 803.

Day 2 concluded with an interview of Donal O’Drisceoil by Ann Piggott of the Cork Mother Jones Committee and Alan, William and John bring matters for the day to a conclusion with a selection of tunes and songs at the Maldron Hotel.

Day 2 of the Online Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2021.

Why not forget Black Friday and click on www.corkcommunitytv.ie

Friday 25th November.

2:00 pm. The highlights of the past ten years of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festivals.

7:00 pm. Tadhg Barry Remembered. A documentary by Cork Council of Trade Unions and Frameworks Films.

Dr. Donal Ó Drisceoil interview.

8:00 pm. Interview with Dr. Donal Ó Drisceoil, author of Utter Disloyalist: Tadhg Barry and the Irish Revolution. 

The official launch of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2021 took place at the Maldron Hotel, Shandon last night. The Lord Mayor of Cork represented by Cllr. John Sheehan declared the festival open and stated that he was delighted that the festival had proceeded this year as each event set out to challenge one’s views of history and social issues. Speaker, Anne Twomey attended and participated in a brief Q&A session afterwards in relation to questions about Muriel MacSwiney. 

Muriel MacSwiney … An Unlikely Revolutionary!

The 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival will contain an interview with Anne Twomey, teacher and historian on the life of Muriel MacSwiney. This will be shown on Cork Community TV on Thursday, November 25th at 8:00 pm followed by a Q&A with Anne at the Maldron Hotel.

Anne is a member of the Shandon Area History Group which recently published “Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times”.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee through the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival has attempted over the past decade to research and promote the cause of women, especially strong independent women whose life stories have sometimes been ignored, silenced or deleted from the public discourse. In the following article Muriel MacSwiney … an Unlikely Revolutionary, we take a brief look at her eventful path through life.

Mary Harris and Muriel Murphy were both born on the north side of Cork City, but unlike the poverty of Mary Harris, Muriel Murphy was born to wealth and privilege at Carrigmore in Montenotte, a future heiress to the huge riches of the Cork merchant prince and unionist supporting Murphy family.

In Muriel’s statement to the Bureau of Military History (BMH) dated December 1951 she wrote “My family, of course, were completely imperialist, conservative, capitalist and roman catholic”.

The youngest in a family of six, she complained of being kept isolated from the “common people” and claimed to have left her snobbish convent at seventeen where she had “learned literally nothing”. Muriel received little formal education and author Angela Clifford in Letters to Angela Clifford suggested that as a result “her originality was left unfettered, she thought and then she did what her thinking suggested”.

Instead of a well-trodden pathway whereby she could have kept her head down and along with many former unionist families who simply blended into the new Free State then in its birth pangs through violent revolution, Muriel took a different path and boldly embraced the early Republican cause and later married Cork Volunteer leader Terence MacSwiney in 1917.

It was the ultimate love story of the beautiful girl sacrificing everything for a poor imprisoned playwright, poet and revolutionary. Her small wedding at Bromyard in Herefordshire on 9th June 1917, on her twenty fifth birthday was conducted through the Irish language at an open prison where the groom wore his military uniform was highly unusual.

Muriel and Terence’s Wedding.

Her forty months of married life was interrupted regularly by the absence of her husband either through his organizing work for the Irish Volunteers or as a result of his harassment or imprisonment by the British authorities. Terence’s later role as Teachta Dāla (TD) in the new Dāil Eireann or his position as Lord Mayor of Cork City could not save him from the harsh treatment of the British which in effect also victimised their families.

Terence was in jail when Muriel gave birth to Māire and his first meeting with their two month old baby daughter, involved Muriel making the long journey to a prison in Belfast in August 1918 and staying in that city for several weeks. The newly married couple had just a few months of normality together in places such as Ballingeary and Youghal in Co Cork.

Muriel with Máire and Terence. (Possibly in Ballingeary).

Muriel too endured the pain of the ceaseless attempts to break her husband’s spirit. She did not agree with hunger strikes, but supported her husband to the very end of his strike. In the full glare of worldwide publicity on 25th October 1920, Cork Lord Mayor, Terence MacSwiney died. His death caused a massive growth of support for the Irish Republican cause, but it also mortally wounded the resolve of the British establishment to enforce it’s rule in Ireland.

The Funeral of Terence MacSwiney in London in 1920. (Notice how close the London policemen are to the coffin).

Very few observers subsequently considered the human trauma, stress and acute loneliness of the young widow with responsibility for a baby. Nor did they empathise with her personal reaction to her husband’s slow painful death over 74 days, the enormous impact of which was such that Muriel collapsed from sheer exhaustion and grief and was unable to attend her Terence’s funeral in Cork.

The painting of the funeral of Terence MacSwiney in St. George’s Cathedral, Southwark by Sir. John Lavery.

Yet exactly a month later, Muriel boarded the Celtic in Cobh (Queenstown) along with her sister in law Mary MacSwiney and arrived in New York on 5th December to a huge welcome from thousands of supporters including some 300 women who ignoring formalities simply mobbed her.

Photo from a New York newspaper shows the mayhem which greeted Muriel in New York.

She provided searingly honest evidence at an American Commission On Conditions In Ireland hearing in Washington on 9th December.

The New York Times front page article referred in patronising terms to her as “a mere girl, with brilliant eyes and a quick engaging smile”. ‘A perfect picture of Irish beauty” gushed the New York Evening World.

Muriel spent the entire Christmas holiday period being introduced to hundreds of Irish people in political and business circles. Later on New Years Eve, New York Mayor Hylan presented her with the formal Freedom of the City at a ceremony in City Hall, the first woman to receive this honour.

Mary and Muriel MacSwiney in America.

Muriel was followed by huge crowds and by today’s terms was a media poster girl for the Irish Revolution. She was serenaded by the “Fighting Sixty Ninth” regimental band that night and the band turned up again to accompany Muriel to the New York quay as she sailed for home on New Year’s Day 1921. Sister in law, Mary MacSwiney stayed on in America until after the truce. One must wonder whether Muriel’s media role as the grieving widow of a Republican martyr was exploited by some within the increasingly powerful movement for independence.    

Portrait of Muriel MacSwiney by Sir. John Lavery.

Soon after returning from America, she headed briefly to Germany for medical treatment. 

Displaying great courage and resilience, she worked ceaselessly for the Republic in spite of health difficulties. She witnessed at close quarters the murder and mayhem around the transfer of power to her comrades and then experienced the growing bitterness between those former friends. As some revolutionaries conformed, others were marginalised. The old unity and loyalty disappeared. Muriel took the Republican side and was present at the heart of the initial fighting during the first days of the Civil War madness.

She returned to the USA in September 1922 and stayed for almost a year trying to gather financial support for the anti-treaty side. Her daughter Māire was looked after by Madame O’Rahilly as part of the O’Rahilly family in their home in Dublin. Māire in her memoir History’s Daughter (2005) described this period as “one of the happiest years of my childhood and the longest period that I spent in a family situation.”

The book covers in great detail the relationship between mother and daughter. They spent the early summer of 1924 together at the old Murphy family home at Carrigmore which seems to have been their last period together in Cork before their emigration to Germany. Māire discusses in some detail her various German schools and the long absences of Muriel in this memoir. However as Muriel gave birth in 1926 to her second daughter Alix may well have contributed to these long absences from Máire.

One may never know the full circumstances behind the sudden appearance of Māire back in Cork in the summer of 1932. Māire describes her return from Germany as voluntary if somewhat unorthodox. Muriel always contended that it was a well-planned kidnap by Mary MacSwiney and her friends in the Church and State. Her poignant description of her desperate efforts to get support in Dublin, are very raw. She spoke with Jim Larkin, Linda Kearns and many other friends and she describes how she cried tears for her child in front of Ēamon De Valera.

Māire was made a ward of court in Ireland after informing the judge that she wished to stay with her aunts in Ireland. It was argued that her aunt Mary was already her legal co-guardian. It remains unclear to this day if this legal paperwork was actually produced as the full court papers and decision have remained sealed. Maire was then raised and educated by the MacSwiney sisters, Mary and Annie at their Scoil Íte school located off Wellington Road in Cork City.

The end result was the 50 year long tragic family estrangement of Muriel and Māire who never spoke or met again. Muriel felt deeply wounded by what she felt was a total betrayal by the MacSwiney family and its cover up by the State. An immediate result was that she became quite ill with flu and pneumonia and was depressed for a period after her vain attempts to get back her daughter failed.

Muriel Image in St. Peter’s, North Main Street, Cork presented by Jeannette Collins.

https://www.corkcity.ie/en/a-city-remembers-cork-1920-to-1923/commemorative-events/muriel-macswiney/

In her BMH statement Muriel states how she left the Catholic Church as early as the outbreak of the Civil War. The Church emerged from the War of Independence as the most powerful institution in the new State (similar to the earlier post Famine period), however Muriel was beginning her break from its influence. “I consider everyone has the right to whatever religious beliefs they think right or to the freethinker ideal which is mine”. Ironically two of her sisters, Nora and Edith joined convents. A third sister Mabel married her second cousin James Murphy and lived at Ringmahon House, near Blackrock in Cork.

Ringmahon House today. Muriel often visited her sister here.

Muriel seems to have embraced European communism and socialist ideas from the mid-20s onwards and moved freely in the German and Parisian left wing circles. Her second daughter Alix was born in May 1926 following a relationship with Pierre Kaan, a writer and independent communist intellectual. Very little is known about this relationship as there is no available reference to Muriel discussing it.

Later, Kaan became a Liberation Sud Resistance leader operating in the town of Montlucon in Central France during the Nazi occupation of nearby areas. Following betrayal in 1943, he was imprisoned, tortured and locked up concentration camps such as Buchenwald and Gleina. He died soon after liberation by the Czech resistance on 18th May 1945.

Muriel left Germany in 1933, as the Nazi takeover of Germany got underway.

She initially lived in France, spent the Second World War in the UK and then moved between Brittany and the UK. Her house in Brittany was named Ty Connolly.

Muriel kept some contact with Ireland and came and went and had extensive correspondence with the Sheehy Skeffington family, while she said she had met Tom Hales in 1953/54. Earlier Māire had married Ruairí Brugha in July 1945 and Ruairi had made great efforts to build bridges to no avail.

She was very friendly with Mrs. Kathleen McDonnell of Bandon, who had German connections, knew all the parties including Mrs. Stockley and Mary MacSwiney and who attempted to organise a reconciliation between Māire and Muriel. Muriel would not agree to any meeting.

Muriel campaigned against homelessness in Dublin and actively supported the Dublin Housing Action Committee especially praising the activities of housing activist Dennis Dennehy. She expressed “complete confidence” in Dr. Noel Browne.

Her letters and writings clearly display expressions of her socialist views and she was somewhat involved in the complicated discussions and rows within the Left during that period. Her available correspondence demonstrates her sympathy on the side of the underdogs in society to the very end of her days. Muriel not alone fought bravely for the Irish Republic, but also fought against international fascism and the control of the Catholic Church in Ireland throughout her life.

Utterly fearless, she challenged the Bishop of Southwark in 1957 when he tried to raise ten thousand pounds for a MacSwiney Chapel in the cathedral where Terence’s body reposed after his death….she told the Guardian newspaper that the money would be better spent in Ireland “where children are suffering from bad conditions caused by unemployment and lack of proper health services”. This may refer to the present Chapel of St. Patrick, which lies on the southside of the cathedral and was rededicated in 1958. There is reference to the cathedral receiving with honour, the body of Terence MacSwiney, “which rested here on the 27th and 28th October 1920”.

The MacSwiney Brugha family at the dedication of the Southwark Cathedral altar to Terence MacSwiney.

In a prescient comment about Muriel, her daughter Māire contended that “one of the main reasons for her falling out with the Roman Catholic Church was its attitude to and treatment of unmarried mothers”. However, it took a further century for the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Home reports to be published in the Republic of Ireland. These reports exposed to some degree in stark detail the treatment experienced by at least one hundred thousand Irish women who either gave birth to children in these institutions or who worked unpaid in the Magdalene laundries in the new State which Muriel witnessed being created in 1922.  Thousands of children died in the institutions and the whereabouts of their burial continues to be a source of controversy to the present day.

Ruairí Brugha died on 20th January 2006, while Māire MacSwiney Brugha died in May 2012. They were married for over 60 years.

Muriel later lived in England with her daughter Alix Blakelock (1926-2009), and her family at Tonbridge in Kent. Members of the family including Alix’s son Adrian (1948-2014) were active in Labour politics and Adrian supported the miners in the 1984/5 strike. On the 25th October 2020, at the commemoration outside of Brixton Prison, of the 100th anniversary of the death of Terence MacSwiney, among those who gathered were members of the Brugha family and Nigel Blakelock, grandson of Muriel MacSwiney.

Muriel died in the Oakwood Hospital Maidstone on 26th October 1982 almost 62 years to the day after Terence MacSwiney.

Angela Clifford who met and corresponded with Muriel regarded her as “a free spirit”. Cork journalist and author Mary Leyland in An Irishwoman’s Diary in the Irish Times September 2012 considered her to “have been charismatic in her own way, purposeful, original and fearless”.

From the few holidays she spent with her mother, Máire remembered her as “a warm and loving mother and I dearly loved her”. Terence MacSwiney himself, long resigned to bachelor hood expressed his intense love for this unusual, wealthy young lady who had innocently entered a closed circle of conspirators in Cork and took a shine to him.

In a chapter of Letters to Angela Clifford in 1996, Ms Clifford deals in chapter four with what she terms the “Character Assassination” of Muriel. Certainly, as Muriel had refused to play the grieving republican widow, she appears to have been largely removed from republican history and was rarely discussed openly in her native Cork. She was disappeared into the knowing silence of the new establishment.

Her refusal to bring up her child as a Catholic, her antipathy to the Church as an institution (Māire referred to it as “an obsession”) and her association with communists did not fit well with the prevailing conservative orthodoxy and double standards applied to her as a woman.

What is very apparent is that Muriel as an activist revolutionary woman/widow/ patriot was not allowed the same freedom or latitude in relation to her personal family life decisions as her male revolutionary counterparts. Nor were the doctrinaire positions of some in her republican circles commented on to the same degree as the conventional wisdom of Muriel’s perceived obduracy.

Muirgheal, (muir gheal…Irish for “bright sea”), the name by which she preferred to be known and with which she signed letters, is worthy of full inclusion as a serious Irish and international patriot, not solely as the wife/widow of Terence MacSwiney, but in her own right as a woman who took her own difficult path in a long revolutionary life.

Principles of Freedom, published in 1921.

In Principles of Freedom, originally a series of articles written in 1911, Terence MacSwiney considered womanhood; his heroic ideal woman was Matilda Tone, wife of Wolfe Tone because of her bravery. He also advised that “a man should learn to let his wife and children suffer rather than make of them willing slaves and cowards”.

In his poem The Path he acknowledged that the life of a revolutionary would place a harsh demand on any woman whom he wished to marry.

“I dreaded asking thee to take my hand lest on a path regretted it should lead, And lest thy heart in after years should bleed, if then ‘mid scenes unwelcome thou shouldn’t stand, And thou shouldst think: “It is a harsh demand this path makes on my labour””.

Muriel bravely survived these harsh demands.      

Gerard O’Mahony of the Cork Mother Jones Committee.     

The interview with Anne Twomey will be shown on Cork Community TV on Thursday November 25th at 8:00 pm followed by a Q&A with Anne at the Maldron Hotel.

Anne is a member of the Shandon Area History Group which recently published “Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times”

Note:

Manus O’Riordan wrote of meeting Muriel in Dublin when she visited his family home and they later exchanged correspondence.  In his last visit to the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in August 2019, his parting words were “Never forget Muriel”. His assistance is very much appreciated.

Manus O’Riordan RIP (May 30th 1949-September 26th 2021).

Further reading:

  • Muriel MacSwiney: Letters To Angela Clifford, by Angela Clifford Athol Books 1995.
  • History’s Daughter: A Memoir From The Only Child of Terence MacSwiney, by Māire MacSwiney Brugha.
  • Enduring The Most: The Life and Death of Terence MacSwiney (1995) by Fergus J Costello.
  • Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times. The Shandon Area History Group.
  • An Irishwoman’s Diary, Irish Times, September 18th 2012 by Mary Leyland
  • Muriel MacSwiney On Ballingeary, and Her Letters To A Grandson of Ballingeary. Ballingeary & Inchigeela Historical Society 2016 by Manus O’Riordan.
Anne Twomey, Historian.

The 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones will present an interview with local historian and teacher Anne Twomey of the Shandon Area History Group, in which we explore the life of Muriel MacSwiney from the available information. The interview will be shown on Cork Community TV on Thursday evening 25th November at 8:00 pm.

10th Spirit of Mother Jones Festival Official Announcement

Our 10th Festival – November 25-28th 2021!

Keep your calendar clear! The Cork Mother Jones Committee wishes to announce that the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival will take place on the final weekend of November (Thursday November 25th – Sunday 28th November.). This will be our tenth festival and we are eagerly looking forward to it.

“We are absolutely delighted to announce that our tenth annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival will be held later this year. The dates for the four-day festival will be from Thursday 25th November until Sunday 28th November 2021 inclusive.

We are aiming to have the festival at venues in and around Shandon as usual although this is dependent on the Government Covid-19 rules which apply by November, however we remain very optimistic that these will permit gatherings and meetings by this time.

In case there remain issues with Covid-19, we can confirm that as a contingency we will also prepare a full online festival. 

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is determined to ensure there will be a Spirit of Mother Jones festival in 2021 and we are working towards achieving that outcome.”

James Nolan spokesperson for the festival

Full details of our festival partnerships, music and many other events will be announced over the summer/ autumn as they are confirmed.

The expanded story of Cork-born Mary Harris/Mother Jones and the extraordinary role of the Irish Diaspora in the organisation of the radical trade union movement in America is now freely available to all on our festival website

It has been updated significantly during the course of 2021 and this will continue regularly as more information becomes available.

Shandon Bells

The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2020

The full Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2020 programme from Friday 27th November 2020 to Monday 30th November 2020 is now available. All events are free to view on Cork Community TV and everybody is welcome over the course of the weekend. We hope that you enjoy the 2020 programme.

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.
8:10 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
dublinhill6@gmail.com


Monday 30th November
Mother Jones Commemoration Day: 90th Anniversary
3:00 p.m. 4:00 p.m. 7.00 p.m.
8:00 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)

Antoinette Keegan is the Spirit of Mother Jones Award recipient for 2020.

The late Christine Keegan and her daughter Antoinette. Photo courtesy of Sam Boal


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 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 Cork Mother Jones Committee

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.

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/stardust-campaigner-honoured-with-the-spirit-of-mother-jones-award-1.4412466?mode=amp

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.

And the World Turns Away!


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 war and chronicles 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 heart breaking.


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.

The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2020 on Cork Community TV

Beginning on Saturday 1st August, the Cork Mother Jones Committee in conjunction with Cork Community TV are making available on television, some of the talks and presentations, which have been delivered at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festivals and Summer Schools since 2012.

The original series of Mother Jones annual lectures, will be shown on Saturday next while during the month of August, further talks delivered over the years at the Summer School will be televised. These will feature Margaret Aspinall, Louise O’Keeffe, Fr. Peter McVerry, Chris Mullin, Anne Twomey and many others.

These are free to view, thanks to Frameworks Films and Cork Community TV, for allowing us to celebrate Mother Jones during August.

The 2020 festival will be held in late November 2020. Further talks and speakers, will be televised during the November Festival.

To see the schedules or tune into the live stream please visit www.corkcommunitytv.ie

Mor tune into Virgin Media Channel 803.

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival Cork

Mother Jones Lives.

Some photos of past speakers, throughout the years.

Fr. Peter McVerry at the plaque in 2015.
Louise O’Keeffe receiving the Spirit of Mother Jones Award in 2018 from James Nolan and Ann Piggott of the Cork Mother Jones Committee.
Sue Roberts, Margaret Aspinall, Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Catherine Clancy, and Professor Simon Cordery in 2013.
Kaiulani Lee with Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. John Buttimer in 2012.
Marat Moore, Professor Rosemary Feurer, Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. John Buttimer, and Professor Elliott Gorn in 2012.
Former miner, Marat Moore in 2012.
Warren Davies in 2017.
Lord Mayor of Cork, Mick Finn, with the Mother Jones’, Joan Goggin, Aoife Delaney and Loretta Williams.
Luke Dineen in 2016.
Loretta Williams with Dominic O’Callaghan, Cork Mother Jones Committee in 2018.

March of the Mill Children re-enacted in Shandon, Cork

A re-creation of March of the Mill Children was held on 31st July 2019 and was staged by Cork Community Art Link. It was directed by Beibhinn O’ Callaghan and Elisa Gallo Rossi.

 The event took place on the historic streets of Shandon in Cork city in conjunction with the Cork Mother Jones Committee as part of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2019. Ms Joan Goggin was Mother Jones. The Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr. John Sheehan attended.
We thank everyone who participated in what was is a historic event which commemorated the original event led by Mary Harris\Mother Jones from Philadelphia to New York during three weeks in July 1903.
For more information on the background of the original March of the Mill Children see our previous article here:https://motherjonescork.com/2019/06/25/mother-jones-and-the-march-of-the-mill-children/