Origins and Lessons of the Spanish Civil War

Historian and author Harry Owens, will address the topic “Origins and Lessons of the Spanish Civil War” at the Maldron Hotel on Friday 4th August at 2.45.

Spain 1937

Anarchist militia from the National Confederation of Labour wave their flags and rifles for the camera in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War. ca. 1937 Barcelona, Spain

The Spanish Civil War was one of the most significant events of the 20th century and became a frightening prelude to World War 2. While it was fundamentally a war between the Spanish people, it was really a battle between the establishment and the workers and peasants, between the forces of conservatism and those seeking progress. Massive foreign intervention ensured a bloody conflict, which resulted in a total defeat for the democratically elected government and its supporters, and consigned Spain and her people to almost 40 years of rule by a fascist government.

Looking at some figures to gauge the extent of the war, Andy Durgan in his book “The Spanish Civil War” (Palgrave Macmillan 2007 Studies in European History) estimates that around 350,000 people died during the period 1936-1939 and its aftermath, out of a population of 25 million.

barricade

Republican forces barricade

He concludes that about 100,000 people were executed by Franco’s Nationalists during the war itself and more than 20,000 soon afterwards. Hundreds of thousands were condemned to prison and exile, ostracism or poverty as Franco consolidated his power and as hunger and terror became official policy and many more died. Others estimate that 150,000 republican supporters  were summarily executed, and lie in unmarked mass graves all over Spain today, in what is now accepted as “the Spanish Holocaust “.

Durgan also contends that about 38,000 people were executed by the Republicans, about half in the first six weeks of the war. In the same period close to 7000 Catholic clergy were killed. This was accompanied by huge destruction of property, churches, and monasteries and was often the result of chaos, fear, ignorance and criminality.

The immediate background to this war began in early 1930s, which saw a new coalition of republicans and socialists come to power and challenge the total grip of the privileged elites which had dominated Spain for centuries. These elites consisted of the Royalty, large landowners, the Catholic Church and army officers. In stark contrast, landless labourers worked under feudal conditions for wealthy landowners in rural Spain while in urban areas, wealthy industrialists exploited the urban poor. One in four children went to bed hungry each night, women, the chattels of their husbands were largely uneducated, and had no vote. The productive power houses of Catalonia and the Basque country seeking a modern market economy, demanded independence.  These conflicts simmered under the surface.

Graham Coton painting of the bombing of Gernika / Guernica

Earlier insurrections by miners and workers in Asturias in Northern Spain in October 1934, were defeated after which the Army murdered several hundred striking miners. This brutality served as a foretaste of the cataclysm to come and ensured a total break between the two sides. It pitched the urban and rural poor against the privileged elites. Following the General Election of February 1936, a Popular front of the Left emerged victorious and set about giving effect to the long awaited land reforms and improvements in pay and working conditions so long demanded in the mills, factories and large businesses throughout Spain.

Conflict broke out quickly in July 1936 when the Army rebelled in Africa and while the initial mutiny was defeated by the workers militias of the socialist, communist and anarchist trade unions, the country descended into war when the Nationalists under Army Chief, General Francisco Franco established an alternative military controlled state at Burgos in the north of Spain.

There followed one of the most brutal and savage wars seen in Europe. The foreign intervention by Germany (17,000 troops) and Italy (70,000 troops) in terms of men and equipment including planes, along with almost 80,000 Moroccan soldiers contributed to the gradual erosion of the Republican/Popular Front territories. In spite of tremendous, brave and passionate resistance in defence of the elected government by the workers militias and volunteers, the resistance to the Franco onslaught was eventually overcome.

The Soviet Union assisted the Republic. The Communist Comintern, an organisation which advocated global communism, recruited and organised the International Brigades. Some 35,000 volunteers from 53 countries came to fight Franco along with several thousand others who fought with other left wing groups. These were actively involved in all of the severest fighting mainly used as shock troops. They suffered 80% attrition, with 30% killed in action. Their bravery and dedication could not be questioned in what afterwards was called the last just war.

The Spanish Civil war brought out the best in people but also the worst. The April 1937 bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by the German Airforce foreshadowed the horror of the widespread indiscriminate bombing of civilians in World War 2. In remembering the battle of Jamara, the defence of Madrid, the battle of the Ebro, the courage of La Pasionaria and the slogan No Pasaran, Guadalajara, the uprising in Barcelona, the battle of Mazuco…………. the long and haunting legacy of Spain remains vivid. Poets and intellectuals such as Federico Garcia Lorca were murdered during the war.   The fight against fascism is commemorated by artists, poets and writers such as Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and George Orwell.

The Spanish working class challenged the entrenched elites in Spain, fought bravely and courageously for a democratic revolution against impossible odds. The powerful elites of Spain were joined by Hitler and Mussolini who tested their war machines and tactics. The impact of the German Condor Legion on the ground proved very effective in the actual fighting.

"Guernica"

Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica”

The political establishments ruling European democracies, largely sat back and failed to defend a democratically elected government from being overthrown. Could Russia have done more to properly arm the Republicans? Should the communists, socialists, anarchists and varied trade unionists have supported each other more effectively? Thousands of papers have been written and the discussions go on.

What is certain is that as a result of the defeat of the Republic, most of the Spanish people and in particular workers and peasants were consigned to almost 40 years of brutal repression until 1977. (Franco died in 1975). The Second World War soon broke out in Europe. Some historians have considered that had the Republican government/Popular Front defeated the forces of Franco, the Second World War might have been avoided. Yet could the poorly armed untrained republicans ever have defeated the might of the Spanish Army?

In the current volatile political climate which has seen Donald Trump become President of the USA, the British people vote to leave the European Union, the growth of right wing populism, the rise of Putin, are there enduring lessons to learned in relation to the Spanish Civil War? Are these still in any way relevant today?

Historian Harry Owens, who has spent a lifetime researching the Spanish Civil War, has visited Spain many times and has contributed to many books including Brigadista- An Irishman’s Fight Against Fascism- Bob Doyle, will consider this topic on Friday afternoon 4th August at the Maldron Hotel at 2.45.                   

 

The 2017 Cork Mother Jones Lectures.

The 2017 Cork Mother Jones Lectures.

Tuesday 1st August 2017 at 7.30 pm.

 

Ethel Buckley

Ethel Buckley

Ethel Buckley leads the SIPTU Division’s collective bargaining, industrial organising, campaigning, membership growth and activist engagement strategies in the private sector. A member of the Executive Council of the ICTU, she was the inaugural Trade Union Organiser in Residence at Ruskin College, Oxford, England. A Cork woman, she recently led the Clerys Campaign and was involved in the campaign for improvement of conditions of the Irish Womens’ Soccer team.

 

In the age of austerity, with the growth of the so called “gig economy” the widespread use of zero hours contracts, outsourcing and the general removal of protections from workers, trade unions membership as a percentage of the workforce especially in the private sector is decreasing. However a new generation of trade union activists and officials are challenging employers and the government to ensure workers’ rights are protected, workplace regulations are enforced and the role of trade unions remains relevant in Irish society.

 

Ethel Buckley will speak to the topic:

 

“Revitalising the Labour Movement: What can we learn from the Justice for Clerys Workers’ Campaign Victory”

 

 

Ed Byrne

Ed Byrne

Ed Byrne is current President of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland. He took office on the 1st August 2016. Ed is a geography and business studies teacher at Colaiste Choilm in Swords, Co Dublin. He wishes to end discrimination against recently qualified teachers and wants equal pay for equal work.

 

He believes it is completely unacceptable to treat young highly qualified and committed young people entering the teaching profession in this discriminatory fashion. The ASTI which has a membership of 18000 teachers, has been to the forefront of this campaign for some time.

 

Ed Byrne will address the topic:

 

“Challenging Injustice, Inequality and the Unethical!”.

 

 

Ed Goltz with Lord Mayor Mary Shields

James Goltz pictured with the then Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr. Mary Shields in 2014

James Goltz is a member of the US Labour Union, the United Association.

James is from Bunker Hill, Illinois and has visited the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival twice.

He will deliver what he terms “the essence of Mother Jones” from her grave in Mount Olive Union Cemetery in Illinois to the people of Cork.

 

James has been in contact with a number of American Labour organisations and will present the Cork Mother Jones Committee with three Proclamations from

  • American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organizations, AFL-CIO International President Richard Trumpka (former President of the UMWA) on behalf of its 12.5 million members.
  • The Illinois AFL-CIO Executive Board and President Michel T. Carrigan on behalf of their one million members.
  • The United Mine Workers of America, UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts on “behalf of a grateful miners’ nation, its friends and allies”. The United Mine Workers of America was founded in 1890 and Mother Jones worked as an UMWA organiser in the coal fields of America in the 1890s.

These three proclamations will be retained and secured by the Cork Mother Jones Committee and one day they will form part of a permanent exhibition to Honour Mother Jones in her native city.

All are welcome to attend at the Maldron Hotel, Shandon, Cork on Tuesday 1st August at 7.30 pm.

 

 

 

 

“The Bolshevik Revolution – its Impact on Cork and the Irish Labour Movement”.

Petrograd

Russian Workers marching for bread and freedom, Petrograd 1917

On Friday morning 4th August at 11.00am at the Maldron Hotel, Historian Luke Dineen will present “The Bolshevik Revolution – Impact on Cork and Irish Labour”.

One hundred years ago, this Revolution changed the face of the world for the rest of the 20th Century, yet what impact if any did it have in Cork, in Ireland or indeed on the Irish labour movement? What did people know about it, how did they hear about it and did it make any difference to the revolutionary events unfolding here in this country?

Luke Dineen will bring his analysis to the 2017 Spirit of Mother Jones Summer School.

Luke Dineen

Historian Luke Dineen

“In July 1917, the third anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, the situation looked hopeless for Europe’s working class. The ruling classes of Europe had needlessly sleepwalked the continent into the most destructive war the world had ever seen until that point, and it was the workers who suffered the most. Apart from provided the war’s cannon fodder, food shortages, unscrupulous employers and mass inflation had created a cost of living crisis that devastated their lives. But, little did they realise, all was about to change.

On 25 October 1917, Lenin’s Bolshevik Party, through its Red Guards, seized control of key government buildings in Russia. The following day, the Winter Palace was captured. The Bolsheviks had taken power in Russia – the course of history was profoundly changed forever. It was a move that shocked and inspired the world. Europe’s ruling classes trembled with fear at the prospect of the working class seizing power elsewhere. The workers of Europe, on the other hand, were inspired by the example of the Bolsheviks.

For a brief period, post-war Europe seemed to herald the beginning of a new dawn, where the injustices and inequalities of the past would be confined to the past. Russia, for so long Europe’s most backward, autocratic and oppressive country, was now a shining example of what could be achieved.

Dublin meeting

Contemporary poster advertising Dublin meeting to welcome the Bolshevik Revolution

 

The impact of the revolution was seismic. It spread to other parts of Europe when workers in Hungary, Italy and Germany rose to cast off the shackles of capitalism before they were violently suppressed by a reactionary alliance of state and fascist paramilitaries. But the revolution’s influence on the rest of the world did not die with these failed uprisings.

Indeed, it would have a deep impact on a revolution that was brewing on the other side of Europe, where the forces of imperialism were all too familiar and had been for centuries. In Ireland, the October Revolution left a deep imprint on the psyche of a labour movement that had been radicalised by the war years. Furthermore, imperialist intervention in Russia to crush the revolution resonated with a republican movement that had won popular support through its promise of casting off the yolk of British domination.

As we approach its centenary, it is timely to examine the influence of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution on Ireland, both in the immediate aftermath and in the subsequent years. This talk will outline that influence on the Irish labour movement, which was struggling for working-class emancipation amidst national revolution. It will also examine how the Bolsheviks influenced labour’s participation in a war that delivered partial independence.

La Pasionaria – the story of Dolores Ibárruri

La Pasionaria

Dolores Ibarruri (La Pasionaria) -addressing a huge rally at Madrid in 1936.

On Friday 4th August at 2.15, local historian, Anne Twomey will speak of the life of Dolores Ibárruri known as “La Pasionaria”, the Passion Flower. This talk forms part of an afternoon and evening of events devoted to an examination of the issues and lessons of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and events devoted to some of the Irish people who fought in the International Brigades.

Dolores Ibárruri was born into a mining family in Gallarta in the Basque country in Northern Spain in 1895. In a curious similarity to the early life personal tragedy of Mother Jones, Dolores trained as a dressmaker, poverty prevented her from becoming a teacher although she almost completed her studies. She married a miner, Julian Ruiz from Asturias in 1915. They had six children, five girls and a boy including triplets, however four of those died soon after birth, while her son Ruben died during the Second World War in the Soviet Union.

Monument in Glasgow

Monument to Dolores Ibarruri (La Pasionaria) in Glasgow by sculptor Arthur Dooley (Photo Ciaran Roarty via Wikimedia Commons)

Born a Catholic, she became a member of the Spanish Communist Party (PCE) in 1921 and wrote extensively in miners’ newspapers. Becoming more prominent in the party she was known for her fiery and passionate speeches, which aroused great loyalty among her supporters. Dolores was elected from the Asturias to the Spanish parliament (the Cortes) in 1936.

She was centrally involved in many of the events leading up to the outbreak of the Civil War. Known as La Pasionaria (The Passion Flower) she oversaw the emergence of the Spanish Communist Party into a central role during the war. She was to the forefront in the struggles with the anarchists during the initial stages of the war. Fleeing Spain in 1939, she eventually arrived in the Soviet Union where she assisted with the war effort through the 40s. She lived in Moscow and was well regarded and close to the Soviet regime, including Stalin. Serving as General Secretary of the PCE for many years from 1942 to 1960, she stayed in the Soviet Union until 1977 and met all the major communist and socialist leaders across the world.

In the meantime Dolores was involved in establishing an underground resistance in Spain to Franco, which achieved little success in the initial decades due to much internal conflict and the total control of Spain by the Franco government. On her return to Spain, she was re-elected to Parliament but suffered from ill-health and retired from active politics. She died in November 1989, aged 93 years. (the same age as Mother Jones!)

Anne Twomey

Cork Historian and author Anne Twomey

 

She is best remembered publicly for her broadcast on Madrid Radio in November 1936, where in another echo of history she exhorted the defenders of the besieged city that “It is better to die on your feet than live for ever on your knees! They shall not pass!” “No Pasarán” became the battle-cry of Madrid and the besieged Republic.  Later in October 1938, she delivered her passionate message of appreciation to the departing members of the International Brigades which is still much quoted.

 

 

Slums, Factories and Child Labour – Florence Kelley 1859-1932

 

Breaker Boys

Breaker Boys – young boys employed in US coalfields to break up large lumps of coal with metal bars. The work was dangerous and back-breaking. Photo: Lewis W. Hine via Wikimedia.

Julianna Minihan will present a paper entitled “Slums, Factories and Child Labour – Florence Kelley 1859-1932″ at the Maldron Hotel, Cork on the opening day of the Spirit of Mother Jones festival, Tuesday 1st August at 3.00pm.

Mother Jones has always been associated with campaigns again child labour and the famous March of the Mill Children in 1903, which she organised, made national headlines. However many other courageous women and men were also active on this issue, among them Florence Kelley, a contemporary of Mother Jones.

Florence Kelley

Florence Kelley (1859-1932)

Throughout her life, Florence Kelley questioned why social justice, and the politics of social justice, appealed more to the middle classes than to the poorer classes and working people.  She wrote and translated books and articles, and engaged in public speaking on social justice issues to educate people.  At the same time she seriously tackled poverty, exploitation, and particularly the plight of working children in her daily work.

Florence Kelley was born in Philadelphia in 1859; (one of her Kelly ancestors emigrated from Derry in the latter part of the 1600’s).  She travelled in Europe in 1883 with relatives, and visited industries in the English midlands with her father, who was a member of the American House of Representatives.  Soon afterwards she began studying at Zurich University, the first European University to allow men and women to study together.  She studied History, Economics, Politics and Socialism and met with many Socialists.  She wrote to Frederick Engels, asking his permission to translate his German-language book “The Condition of the Working Class in England”.  He agreed, and it was published.

She married and had three children, but eventually divorced and got custody of the children.  She published some articles in the 1880’s, stating that the employment of children under fourteen should be prohibited, and that schooling should be compulsory and available for all children.  She also wrote about the need for radical change in society, but her main concern was always child labour.

autobiography cover

Florence Kelley autobiography

 

She was involved in the Settlement House movement, and after her separation from her husband, she worked with Hull House in the slums in Chicago from the early 1890’s.  As a result of her work, she was appointed Chief factory inspector in Chicago, the first woman to have such a job in America.  She was very effective at reducing the amount of child labour, however, a new Governor of Illinois fired her and her team, replacing her with someone who would not prosecute unscrupulous factory owners and employers.

She went on to lead the National Consumers League, an early type of ‘Fair Trade’ organization, for thirty years.  Goods produced without employing child labour, and fulfilling certain other conditions, were awarded National Consumer League Labels.  Shoppers were encouraged to purchase such goods, and manufacturers were encouraged to have their goods qualify for the labels.  Florence Kelley died in 1932, and Laws prohibiting child labour were introduced after her death.

Florence Kelley spoke of Mother Jones in 1914 after the Ludlow Massacre and accused the American government of being so totally incapable “of handling one poor American rebel, the aged Mother Jones, aged, gray haired and bowed down with years of fighting against the men controlling this country.”

She referred later to “our own rebels…….one is a white-haired old woman who spends most of her time going in and out of prison”

Julianna Mnihan

Julianna Minihan – will speak at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on 1st August

Julianna Minihan works in non-traditional employment in Cork.  She researches human rights, equality & social justice in the 1800’s. She is a fluent Irish speaker and has a keen interest in Irish place names and in Quaker history. Julianna will discuss child labour in America on Tuesday August 1st 2017 at 3pm at the Maldron Hotel in the context of the pioneering work of social reformer Florence Kelley.

 

 

The Environmental Battle in Cork Harbour

Anti-Incinerator demo

Anti-incinerator protest at Carrigaline, Co. Cork, 2016

As the wider community around Cork Harbour continues to await the decision of An Bord Pleanala (State planning board)  in relation to the planning application by Indaver Ireland to construct an incinerator in Ringaskiddy, Councillor Marcia Dalton of Cork County Council will address this issue on Thursday morning 3rd August at the Maldron Hotel at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival & Summer School.

Cork Harbour is a beautiful place and home to tens of thousands of people. It is a large natural harbour extending from Cork city to the Atlantic Ocean at Roches Point. Dotted around it are towns and villages, the best known are historic Cobh, Crosshaven, Monkstown and Passage. In past centuries the British Navy long recognised its importance and its ability to provide protection and it created an impregnable series of forts around the entrance making it one of the most important naval bases and ports on the west of Europe. It has been a trading port for centuries and hundreds of thousands emigrated from Cobh (formerly named Queenstown) in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Almost 50 years ago, many questioned the Government decision to designate areas of Cork Harbour as a centre for heavy and polluting industry and sought answers as to why the quiet Ringaskiddy Village area was selected as the centre for a deep water port. Located near the south western entrance of the Harbour this small village and community was the furthest location on the harbour from existing road networks, infrastructure such as rail links and connections to the rest of Ireland. That road infrastructure is still not fully in place and Ringaskiddy village itself is now virtually cut off from the harbour.

Already then located on Haulbowline Island was Irish Steel and while it provided many hundreds of jobs, its legacy to the harbour has been a large toxic island comprised of 650,000 cubic metres of contaminated waste, which is only now being finally removed. This had given rise to fears for residents and workers health.

Ringaskiddy demo

One of many anti-incinerator rallies at Ringaskiddy

The simmering resentment over the creation of industrial dumps in the area came to national prominence at the Battle of Barnahealy in May 1978, when a forceful attempt to dump asbestos waste (from the Raybestos Manhattan factory in Ovens, near Ballincollig), in spite of a protest by 200 local people organised by the Ringaskiddy Residents Association resulted in violence. The asbestos loaded dump truck from the factory some 35 Kilometres away was driven through the permanent picket of local people including many children, resulting in nine people being treated in hospital. The asbestos factory closed in 1980.

The harbour became associated with the vociferous campaign against pungent odours and pollution from some pharmaceutical plants during the 80s, even as the Merrill Dow plans to establish a factory in Killeagh further east in County Cork were defeated by environmental groups in 1989. There followed a vigorous campaign against the Sandoz factory incinerators by the Cork Environmental Alliance (CEA) in the 90s.

The sustained efforts by local groups such as Responsible Industry in Cork Harbour (RICH) and the CEA and many other community organisations contributed to the then creation of a Department of Environmental Protection and the establishment by its Minister Mary Harney of the Irish Environmental Protection Agency in 1993 (EPA).

Cork Harbour

Cork Harbour (not to scale)- the Indaver incinerator site at Ringaskiddy is highlighted with a star.

Former RTE Today Tonight journalist, Jerry O’Callaghan in his 1992 book The Red Book…The Hanrahan Case against Merck, Sharp and Dohme” concluded

“Cork Environmental Alliance may have lost the battle to stop Sandoz but they probably won the war. In future it is difficult to imagine any chemical projects getting past the praetorian guard of environmentalists without the most thorough inquisition”

Just a year later, on the morning of 6th August 1993, the Harbour exploded back into public consciousness, and exposed the failures to enforce environmental regulations, when the huge explosion and fire at the Hickson Pharmaceutical Plant to the south of Ringaskiddy village created international publicity. It was a miracle that this accident did not result in a major damage escalation and disaster in the lower harbour as water to fight the flames ran dry. For a critical period that morning, the Cork County Council Report acknowledged that there was “a severe lack of water for firefighting”.

Stunned into action both the public authorities and a more progressive industry devoted resources to improving the situation under the watchful and wary eyes of local residents and local environmental groups. The situation gradually improved and tourism, leisure, business, environmental and educational based projects slowly brought about the realisation that this was the way to improve the local harbour economy and create sustainable jobs.

Indaver fire Antwerp 2016

Massive fire which followed an explosion at an Indaver incinerator near Antwerp, Belgium in February 2016

Then in 2001, Indaver Ireland, a Belgian owned incineration company, submitted plans for a waste incinerator just a kilometre from Ringaskiddy village, close by the Irish Naval Headquarters at Haulbowline, within Cork Harbour. The Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (CHASE), an alliance of local groups was established to oppose this incinerator.

Described by Frank McDonald, a former Environment editor at the Irish Times in his 2005 book (with James Nix), Chaos at the Cross Roads as “the biggest battle in Ireland so far has been fought over Indaver’s hazardous waste incinerator at Ringaskiddy”, the drums of the battle still reverberate daily in Cork Harbour over 12 years later.

A further generation of local people, young and old, has now spent almost 17 years of their lives fighting this incinerator, through three permission applications, through An Bord Pleanála (the State Planning Board), through the Environmental Protection Agency, through the courts in Ireland and Europe. Hundreds of thousands of euro have been raised from voluntary efforts and spent and irreplaceable time lost to their families as ordinary people wade through thousands of complex documents as official deadlines for submissions come and go!

LÉ Niamh at Haulbowline

Irish Naval patrol ship LÉ Niamh at the Irish Naval base at Haulbowline less than a kilometre from the Indaver incinerator site

The third planning application for an incinerator to burn 240,000 tonnes of various waste streams was submitted by Indaver Ireland to An Bord Pleanála on 13th January 2016 and a further public planning enquiry Oral Hearing was held during April/May 2016 in the nearby town of Carrigaline. This was particularly noteworthy for the completely united front of Harbour residents, young and old, politicians of all political parties and a wide range of social, educational, tourism, trade union and cultural organisations and the Irish Department of Defence which expressed total opposition to the project.

During the 17 day Oral Hearing, very serious flaws in the Indaver planning application were exposed in spite of the behind closed doors consultation between Indaver (involving at least six pre-application consultation meetings since 2012) with An Bord Pleanala, permitted under the fast-track Strategic Infrastructure Act 2006.

Toxic legacy

Toxic Legacy – slag heap from former Irish Steel plant on Haulbowline seen from Spike Island. Photo: John Jefferies.

Tuesday evening April 26th 2016 (Day 6) of the Oral Hearing was described as “electric” by Caitriona Reid in her recent book “Our Third Fight” as dozens of local residents vividly and angrily described to the Planning Inspector how their community had suffered through bad planning over the decades.

Indaver demo

Protest outside Indaver site, Ringaskiddy

Residents have now spent 60 days at oral hearings into various Indaver incinerator applications and have repeatedly stated that they have no trust whatever in the Indaver Ireland company.

To date a fourth decision deferral has been made by An Bord Pleanala (August 10th 2017 is the latest decision day!)…… and so will continue a new round of the battle in what may already be the longest running environmental battle anywhere in Europe…..the battle for environmental justice in Cork Harbour.

 

Councillor Marcia D’Alton, is an independent Cork County Councillor based in the Passage/Monkstown area. Marcia is an environmental engineer and one of the opponents of this project. She will tell the story of this saga when she talks on Thursday 3rd August at 11am at the Maldron Hotel. Her presentation will form part of the “Environment Day” on that date at the Spirit of Mother Jones 2017 summer school.  

 

By Admin.

 

Feargus O’Connor – The Lion of Freedom

Cork born Chartist leader to be remembered at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival

Feargus O'Connor

Feargus O’Connor (1796-1855)

Born on 18th July 1796 at Connorville close to Ballineen in Co Cork, Feargus O’ Connor was the son of Roger O’Connor and Wilhelmina Bowen. Both his father and more famous uncle, Arthur (a Barrister, former MP and High Sheriff of Cork) were arrested in 1798 for activities connected to the United Irishmen. Arthur was exiled to France, where Bonaparte welcomed him as an official representative of the Irish people. Roger’s family were also dispersed for some time as a result of his ongoing brushes with the law.

After some teenage adventures in England and Ireland, Feargus acquired Fort Robert, Dromidiclogh near Ballineen in West Cork from his uncle Robert Connor in 1820 and worked the attached farm alongside over 100 of his tenants. At this time, rural areas of County Cork were hotbeds of Whiteboy actions led by the infamous and mysterious Captain Rock and O’Connor may have become mixed up in these activities. He had also addressed his first public meeting at the original Catholic Church in Enniskean but due to the treasonous nature of his comments, he disappeared to England in 1822, where he later qualified as a barrister.

Connorville

The ruins of Connorville, Ballineen, birthplace of Feargus O’Connor

Returning to Cork he defended many ordinary people in the courts at the time. However his experiences led him to become angry at the lack of civil rights, a critic of tithes (payments to the Protestant church) and more active in politics. He did not support Daniel O’Connell’s Catholic Emancipation campaign contending that it was limited emancipation and O’Connell was “the only Irishman to have benefitted”. In any event he was more interested in the Repeal of the Union movement and his brilliant oratory skills helped him to sway huge crowds at public meetings. He addressed a crowd of some 50,000 people in Dunmanway in 1832, while also holding a large campaign dinner for 500 in Enniskean village.

Kennington meeting

Chartist Meeting, Kennington Common, London 1848

Large in stature, fiery and red haired, self-confident, charming, defiant and passionate, he engaged huge crowds and was a natural leader. Occasionally these meetings could be rather robust affairs and O’Connor became involved in many altercations. He was described by his friend and neighbour William J O’Neill Daunt as being “indefatigable in agitation”. His increasingly radical views gained many supporters among disenfranchised tenants, labourers and working class people of no property.

He challenged openly the aristocratic Tory grip of politics across County Cork and in 1832 surprised all when he was elected MP for County Cork, breaking the political glass ceiling of the landlords, (although one himself!). His victory sparked mass evictions of hundreds of tenants along the Bandon Valley by Lord Bandon. The landlords never forgave him and those evicted never forgot either. Yet he continued to engineer electoral victories in a corrupt system by somewhat pragmatic methods in many Cork towns against a backdrop of increasing anti tithe violence. (In December 1834, 12 people were killed when troops opened fire in Rathcormac, Co Cork).

In the House of Commons, O’Connor was very isolated and gradually split from Daniel O’Connell accusing him of selling out the Irish people on Repeal, especially after the Liberator’s agreement to the Lichfield House Whig Compact. O’Connor and the working classes became alienated even further from O’Connell due to O’Connell’s regular attacks on the emerging trade union networks.

Re-elected in January 1835 as MP for Cork, he was soon disqualified from the House of Commons in June when a Select Committee found he had not enough property or income to qualify in the first place. Being unable to contest the Cork election again he then turned most of his attention to English politics.

Later in England in September 1835 O’Connor helped found the Great Radical Association, which united many radicals and agitators and which sought universal suffrage (for men), voting by ballot and the removal of property qualifications for MPs. He possessed ferocious energy and spoke at huge meetings in support of working peoples’ rights and is regarded by many as one of the founders of Chartism based on the later People’s Charter which also sought the earlier principles espoused by O’Connor. Feargus was becoming the “Lion of Freedom”, adored by countless thousands, yet remaining a very divisive figure to others.

Northern Star

The Northern Star

He founded the Northern Star newspaper in 1837 in Leeds, which was hugely popular and which promoted the ideas of Chartism throughout Britain and supported the People’s Charter announced by the London Working Men’s Association in June 1838. O’Connor was a vigorous campaigner, an accomplished orator, a smart agitator and he spoke at meetings attended by hundreds of thousands of people. Unfortunately he also became involved in the many irrelevant disputes which weakened the Chartist movement. Yet he always raised the Irish grievances whenever he could.

The authorities ensured he was charged and imprisoned for 18 months for seditious libel in May 1840 in York Castle. While weakening his direct control over the Chartist revolution, O’Connor became a martyr for the now huge movement. In spite of many setbacks, widespread violence arising from industrial strikes especially in 1842, the rejection of parliament petitions, an over ambitious land plan, O’Connor and others kept Chartism central to the political agenda throughout the 1840s. He was elected as an MP for Nottingham in 1847 and became an even bigger thorn in the side of the Establishment (both Whigs and Tories in Parliament).

Grave

Detail from Feargus O’Connor’s gravestone at Kensal Green Cemetery (via Findagrave.com)

Eventually worn out by years of campaigning, wounded by arguments within the movement, lack of finances and the ongoing efforts of the Establishment to be rid of him, O’Connor experienced poor health and mental difficulties, he was eventually sent for treatment to an asylum where he remained for several years. He died at his sister’s house in Notting Hill on 30th August 1855 and is buried at Kensal Green Cemetery. Vast crowds attended his funeral in London and the gates of the cemetery were “unceremoniously broke open” by the throngs. A large monument was erected over his grave. Another monument was erected in Nottingham by his admirers.

Chartism, riven with disputes between reformers and militants receded in the 1850s and much of its vision in education, parliamentary and land reforms and universal suffrage came to nothing in the short term. However the awakening working classes proceeded to organise and consolidate trade unions, co-operatives and friendly societies and absorb new socialist and democratic ideas. Wage negotiations commenced. While political reform took longer…… for many on the ground, O’Connor had led the way across the revolutionary Rubicon!

Southern Star (Chartist)

The Southern Star – British Chartist newspaper (not related to the West Cork paper of the same name)

As early as February 1838, O’Connor as quoted in the Bolton Free Press (Dorothy Thompson The Chartists) had declared that society is divided into two classes….  “The rich oppressors and the poor oppressed. The whole question resolved itself into the battle between labour and capital”.  He emphasised the need to create independent working class organisation.

Feargus had introduced powerful ideas to the workers and he would not be silenced as he understood how to promulgate these ideas fearlessly through his newspaper, through vast meetings and through Chartism. Establishment attacks tried to destroy his character portraying him as a colourful and dangerous eccentric of this period yet the West Corkman remains the one innovative, questioning and radical voice in the complex tapestry and history of agitation for full political rights for all in Britain and Ireland.

Today, O’Connor appears to have been consigned to occupying a marginal role in Irish and British history, although he was a central and significant figure in the British Revolution. In his publication “Feargus O’Connor …a Political Life” by Paul A Pickering (published by Merlin Press 2008), Professor Pickering contends that O’Connor has not been “treated kindly by history” and his book is a plea for a place in Irish and British history for Feargus, as “he had earned it”.   

Carrickmore

Carrickmore House – extension of the original Connorville at Ballineen – both in ruins now.

Today, Connorville and the later Carrigmore House shamefully lie in ruins alongside the present day Carbery Milk Products factory at Ballineen. Cattle graze beneath the walls of Feargus’s old home Fort Robert (built in 1787) which is nearby. Very little remains of the old church at Derrigran, Enniskean where he made his first speech, and today a parochial house stands on the site.

Alongside the “Idle Bridge”, on the main Bandon/Dunmanway road (a bridge built by Roger to carry water from a never completed Blackwater river diversion on the O’Connor lands at Manch), a small plaque unveiled in 1999, commemorates Roger and Arthur O’Connor and their role in the United Irishmen.

For Feargus O’Connor…the Lion of Freedom… there is no monument in his native county!

 

Cllr Warren Davies, is a Labour Councillor, who represents Baird Ward in Hastings in East Sussex. For 27 years he has taught history, politics, Sociology and anthropology. Warren will speak of “Feargus O’Connor – The Corkman behind a British Revolution” on Saturday 5th August 2017 at 2.30pm at the Maldron Hotel.