“Get off your knees” – the Rosemary Feurer lecture 2014

At the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2014 an important paper was delivered Professor Rosemary Feurer of Northern Illinois University.  Prof. Feurer, who had also spoken at the inaugural festival in Cork in 2012, examined the parallel activities of Mother Jones and the great Irish socialist leaders James Connolly and “Big Jim” Larkin, in particular looking at the similar paths they followed, both geographical and philosophical and conclusions they reached.

You can download the full text of Prof. Feurer’s lecture by clicking on the link below:-

Get Off Your Knees Feurer

 

 

Rosemary Feurer

Rosemary Feurer in Cork, August 2014 with the banner of Women Against Pit Closures from the UK Miner’s Strike 1984

Rosemary Feurer is Professor of History at Northern Illinois University.  She co-directed “Mother Jones, America’s Most Dangerous Woman”.  Author, she writes extensively on labour history.  Rosemary is Administrator of www.motherjonesmuseum.org website and Mother Jones Lives.  She attended the inaugural Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in Cork in 2012 and delivered the above lecture at the same festival on August 1st, 2014.   You can download the full lecture by clicking on the link below:

 

Gareth Peirce – a lifetime defending the underdog

 

Gareth Peirce

Gareth Peirce

Gareth Peirce is well known and respected for her legal defence work in cases involving miscarriages of justice in the British legal system. She is best known in Ireland for her indefatigable work in the 70s and 80s in securing the release of Judith Ward, the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six. The dramatic television pictures of whose releases have become defining images of a broken and perverted justice system. She also campaigned against the detention of striking miners during the 1984 Miners Strike.

In more recent times she has defended the British Muslim community who have been at the receiving end of State injustice.

Gareth is known to many British Muslims simply as “al-Umm” or “Mother”.

Ms Peirce initially worked as a journalist before taking a law degree and joining the legal firm of Benedict Birnberg. She is today the senior partner of Birnberg Peirce & Partners in London.

The legendary commitment to her clients is very evident, her meticulous pursuit of the inconvenient truth and her razor sharp legal analysis has ensured freedom and justice for many people who placed their faith in Gareth Peirce. She has displayed a deep respect for the experiences of ordinary people or people who may be vulnerable and will relentlessly expose a situation where she believes a blind eye has been turned to suspect methods used to obtain unsafe convictions.

The publication “Dispatches from the Dark Side – On Torture and the Death of Justice” is the definitive work on the abuse of power by some State institutions. Utterly fearless and relentless in pursuit of truth and justice and in the defence of civil rights, Gareth continues to detail the experiences of a new suspect community of young British Muslims and point to the similarities of their experiences to those of the Irish community in Britain a few decades ago.

In a series of cogent and perceptive essays from 2008 to 2010 for the London Review of Books she examined the threats to the justice system, which arise from within. Ms Peirce is adamant that where the law is used for political ends, it will lead also to the subversion of justice itself. Arguing that to protect ourselves for the future, we need to know and examine what has occurred in the past resonates with many people who recognise how true that is in the Irish context.

Her good friend Gerry Conlon passed away recently and at his funeral in Belfast on Saturday 28th June last, Gareth Peirce in her funeral oration described him as a “victorious human being who had stated the truth and finally many people woke up to the injustice”. Gareth Peirce’s words about Gerry could be equally applied to her own huge impact on people and why everyone should question legal injustice.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is honoured that Gareth Peirce will speak at the Spirit of Mother Jones Summer School on Wednesday evening 30th July at 7.15pm at the Firkin Crane Centre.

 

 

 

Day 2 of Festival – “The Legacy”

Today (Wednesday, 30th) is Day 2 of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in Cork city.   Proceedings begin at 11.00am at the Firkin Crane theatre, Shandon when lecturer Luke Dineen will tell the story of the Cork Harbour Soviet which occurred during the Irish independence struggle in 1921 when militant striking workers flew the red flag over the city’s harbour authority offices and took control of the port for a period.

At 12.0 Noon, David Joyce, development officer of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions will give a lecture on “Qatar… a World Cup graveyard?” in which he will outline the appalling level of well over 1,000 workers to-date, the use of virtual slave labour and other ill-treatment of workers in the building of stadiums for the 2022 World Cup which is due to be held in Qatar.

That will be followed by lunchtime music at the Maldron Hotel by Cork’s own James P. McCarthy.

In the afternoon at 3.00pm back at the Firkin Crane, Claire McGettrick will speak about the Magdalene laundries and the ongoing campaign for justice for women who lived and worked there under conditions of detention and slave labour.

The major event of the evening, also at the Firkin Crane,  will be solicitor Gareth Peirce‘s speech under the title “Defending the Underdog” (see adjacent article for more details).

At 9.00pm at the Firkin Crane the 2014 Mother Jones Gala Concert will take place with Richard T. Cooke and Friends, featuring the Cork Rokk Choir, Cork Shakespearean Company, Aoife Delaney, Kieran McCarthy, William Hammond and many others.

At 10.30pm, to wrap up a very full day, the Mother Jones Céilí Band will perform at the Maldron Hotel.

 

Mother Jones festival begins today!

Members of the committee of Cork Mother Jones Festival and guests with Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Mary Shields

Some of the guests at this year’s Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, along with committee members, being received at Cork City Hall today, by the Lord Mayor Mary Shields.

Cork's Lord Mayor, Cllr. Mary Shields with some  members of the Cork Mother Jones Commitee at City Hall this morning (L-R): James Nolan, Cllr. Ted Tynan, the Lord Mayor, Michael Lally.

Cork’s Lord Mayor, Cllr. Mary Shields with some members of the Cork Mother Jones Commitee at City Hall this morning (L-R): James Nolan, Cllr. Ted Tynan, Lord Mayor Shields, and  Michael Lally.

mj_fanfare

The third annual Spirit of Mother Jones opens tonight, heralding the start of a four-day festival of film, debate, music and more in the historic Shandon area on Cork City’s Northside. The festival is the culmination of months of preparation and effort and puts in place an event which has now become established as one of Cork’s most unique festivals, recalling the life and legacy of Mary Harris / Mother Jones, Cork’s rebel daugthter, America’s venerable campaigner.

Today’s events, under the heading “The Gathering”, are as follows:-

Tuesday, 29th July 2014

5.00pm – Official Festival opening at the Maldron Hotel

6.00pm – “Mother Jones, America’s Most Dangerous Woman” – a film by Rosemary Feurer (at the Firkin Crane).

7.30pm – The Cork Mother Jones 2014 Lecture with Professor James Greene of the University of Massachusetts, Boston and author of Death in the Haymarket and the West Virginia Mine Wars.

9.30pm – Cork Singer’s Club perform at the Maldron Hotel.

Mother Jones in the minefields of West Virginia

“Mother Jones in the Minefields of West Virginia: An American Adventure Story”

 

Prof. Jim Green

Prof. Jim Green

The 2014 Cork Mother Jones Lecture will be presented by Professor James Green of the University of Massachussets, Boston. The lecture will take place at 7.30 at the Firkin Crane Centre in Shandon on Tuesday 29th July.

James Green was inspired by John F Kennedy’s speech calling racial inequality a “moral issue”, he was stunned by the assassination of Mississippi civil rights leader Medgar Evers that same night. Moved by Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” in August 1963 and devastated by Kennedy’s assassination in November.

 

He worked as an intern in the office of Illinois Senator Paul H Douglas for two summers in 1965 and 1966 and met Senator Eugene McCarthy, whose Presidential primary campaign he joined in 1968. Later he met Senator George McGovern, who had earned a PhD in labour history from Northwestern University.

“All three men played roles in public life I admired”

Jim studied for his own PhD in history with C. Vann Woodward at Yale and became fascinated with the history of radicalism and political protest in the United States.

“My purpose was to study the past to understand injustice in our society-and then to explain how men and women who suffered from injustice gained the will to struggle against it and to strive for a better society”

Jim has worked to fight against injustice and worked for a better society for almost half a century!

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is very honoured to have Professor James Green deliver the third annual Cork Mother Jones Lecture at the Firkin Crane on Tuesday 29th July at 7.30pm.

 

 

 

Durham Miners’ Gala

The 130th Durham Miners Gala was held on Saturday 12th July 2014. It was one of the largest ever gatherings and took place in glorious sunshine. Known as the Big Meeting, it was a spectacular and colourful success. It celebrates the history, the heritage and the human struggle of the mining communities of the North East of England.

Durham crowds

Procession of bands and banners and some of the 100,000 who attended the Durham Miners’ Gala 2014

General Secretary of the Durham Miners Association, Dave Hopper who presided, extended a warm welcome to the massive attendance at the Racecourse, on the banks of the River Wear. Earlier he had reviewed the massive parade from the balcony of the County Hotel at the Old Elvet for over 5 hours. Thoughts of the 30th Anniversary of the British Miners Strike were never far from proceedings, especially since the release of Thatcher Government’s Cabinet papers which exposed both the true extent of the planned pit closures and how far Mrs Thatcher was prepared to go to break the National Union of Mineworkers.

The Durham Miners Gala is an extraordinary manifestation of union, worker, community solidarity, something which Mother Jones advocated. The Gala’s historical legacy goes back to 1871, over 140 years yet it does not forget its history of struggle or its heroes such as Tony Benn, Bob Crow and Stan Pearce all of whom passed away in the last few months. A key speaker, Denis Skinner MP advocated a “new Durham Manifesto” to safeguard decent working conditions, decent pay and fair play.

Irish socialist leader and trade union giant James Connolly featured on banner with other icons of the movement

Irish socialist leader and trade union giant James Connolly (top left) featured on banner with other icons of the movement

Yet as one listens to the Bishop of Jarrow, the Right Reverend Mark Bryant at the wondrous Durham Cathedral, during the blessing of new miners banner produce a moving sermon based on “people being at their best when pulling together” and one witnesses the pride of a packed Cathedral as five Miners Brass Bands parade up the central aisle with their new banners, the centrality of miners suffering and experience and their bonds of solidarity to the wider community and society is never in doubt.

new banner celebrating inaugural meeting of Durham Miners' of 1871 unveiled at the County Hotel

new banner celebrating inaugural meeting of Durham Miners’ of 1871 unveiled at the County Hotel

The challenge will be to ensure the Gala’s future, however it was very evident from the number of school and community banners appearing behind the main lodge banners on the Parade and the huge numbers of young people attending that that process is well under way.

Another one of the hundreds of banners carried in Durham on July 12th

Another one of the hundreds of banners carried in Durham on July 12th

Dave Hopper will speak at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on Thursday afternoon at 3.15 at the Firkin Crane as part of the Festival’s “Miners day”. Betty Cook and Anne Scargill of Woman Against Pit Closures (WAPC) along with Paul Winter of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign are also speakers in a series of presentations which begin at 11am and continue throughout the day and evening.

 

The Story of the Magdalenes

On Wednesday afternoon 30th July, at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival,  Claire McGettrick, co-founder of Justice for Magdalenes (now JFM Research) will speak at the Firkin Crane in Shandon, Cork,  about the story of the Magdalenes.

Claire is an activist, researcher and also co-founder of the Adoption Rights Alliance.

She worked as Research Assistant on the project Magdalene Institutions: Recording an Archival and Oral History, which collected the oral histories of 79 interviewees, including 35 Magdalene survivors. The Magdalene Names Project, which is central to Claire’s work with JFM Research, makes use of historical archives to develop a partial, repaired narrative of the lives of some of the women who died behind convent walls, with the aim of creating a lasting memorial to these women.

Claire McGettrick

Claire McGettrick

Origins and growth of the Magdalenes.

The Magdalene system of sending young women into institutional homes developed from the appalling poverty, disease, prostitution and poor conditions which existed in Ireland in the early 19th Century. Later the effects of the Famine consigned thousands of women to a life of desperation on the streets with little hope of income or shelter. It was the era of Workhouses, Lock hospitals and Asylums.

Cork with a population of about 80,000 had a particular high level of poor housing and bad sanitary conditions throughout the City. In 1809 a Catholic Magdalen Asylum was established in Peacock Lane, Blackpool by a Mr Terry. Later, the Irish Sisters of Charity were asked to take over the running of the Asylum and following the completion of the St. Vincent’s Convent on the grounds, the Order took over the Asylum in 1846. In 1810 another Refuge was founded on the South Terrace by Protestants, which took in women mainly from prison.

In July 1872 the Good Shepherd Nuns opened a Magdalen Asylum at Sunday’s Well in Cork, which was followed in 1873 by the opening of the Convent and later still by an Industrial School. The original aim of the Magdalene Asylums was to provide training and shelter for prostitutes anxious to reform however this rehabilitation gradually became a punitive based system, particularly after the foundation of the Irish State.  The regime involved harsh working conditions for no pay, where the women and girls were incarcerated against their will, not knowing if they would ever be released.

The concept that these women were to do lengthy penance for their sins became deeply ingrained in the reasoning behind their removal to the Magdalene Institutions. Some escaped, some were released to family members, while over 1,000 died behind convent walls, never seeing freedom.    And, a significant number remained within the institutions, dependent on the religious orders for the rest of their lives.

The Magdalene Institutions remained attached to the local religious convents which ran their day to day activities. These institutions established laundries which using the readily available and cheap labour became important sources of income for the religious orders. Thousands of women and girls worked in the Magdalene Laundries, as more and more “fallen”, destitute or perceived troublesome women were incarcerated. In reality, most were frightened young girls, often transferred from the industrial school system.

Forgotten by society and abandoned by their own families, these women and girls remained captive behind the high walls, invisible to society and ignored by successive governments.

 

In 1993, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge decided to sell some of their land at High Park, Drumcondra and applied to the Department of the Environment for the exhumation of 133 women. The exhumation order was granted by the Department on 25th May 1993. When the undertakers were carrying out the task of exhuming the bodies on 23rd August 1993, an additional 22 remains were discovered. The Department of the Environment then supplied an additional exhumation order to allow the removal of “all human remains” at the relevant site.

The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge told the Department of the Environment that they could not produce death certificates for 24 women on the exhumation order who appear under fictitious names. The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge also told the Department that they could not produce death certificates for a further 34 women on the exhumation order. The remains of 154 out of 155 of the women were then cremated and reinterred at Glasnevin Cemetery. Questions about the circumstances of these women and their exhumation remain unanswered.

Inaccessible Magdalene burial plot, Sunday's Well Cork.   Plaque beneath broken cross reads: "A memorial to the Residents of St. Mary's Good Shepherd Convent, Sunday's Well. 1873-1993"

Inaccessible Magdalene burial plot, Sunday’s Well Cork. Plaque beneath broken cross reads: “A memorial to the Residents of St. Mary’s Good Shepherd Convent,
Sunday’s Well 1873-1993″

 

Growing questions.

Do Penance or Perish, A Study of Magdalen Asylums in Ireland, by Francis Finnegan published in 2001 traced the development of the Magdalene movement and provided the 19th century history of four of Ireland’s Convent Magdalen Asylums.  More and more voices were being raised questioning the stillness of the injustice. In addition to some early articles, a Channel Four Television production Sex in a Cold Climate released in 1998 broadcast the distressing accounts of the system by former inmates of the Irish Magdalene system.

This was followed in by the 2002 film by Peter Mullan called the Magdalene Sisters.  Survivor advocacy group Justice for Magdalenes was founded in 2003, asking questions about the circumstances surrounding the High Park exhumations. In 2007 Prof James M Smith’s (Boston College/JFM Research) Ireland’s Magdalen Laundries and the Nation’s Architecture of Containment charted the 20th century Magdalene regime, offering the first crucial evidence of State involvement in the laundries. Steven O’Riordan’s film “The Forgotten Maggies” appeared in 2009. Some fearless articles by the late Mary Raftery in the Irish Times also added to the growing disquiet around these institutions.

The last Magdalene Laundry, located at Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin, closed in 1996. Many convents also declined and due to the lack of entrants closed. The laundries, no longer useful or profitable could not compete with huge national and multinational industrial operations and with the advent and widespread use of washing machines, they fell into disrepair.

Increased media exposure and the growing strength of survivor advocacy groups such as the Justice for Magdalenes group, (JFM) which began its political campaign in 2009, saw a growing clamour for the establishment of a Compensation Scheme for all Magdalene survivors as well as an official apology from the Irish State. The official apology on the 19th February 2013 by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to the Magdalene survivors marked an important milestone in the campaign as the women were finally vindicated. While the Taoiseach described the “Nation’s Shame”, neither Church nor State will acknowledge the human rights violations which have taken place, although the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has called on the Vatican to conduct an enquiry.

What remains is to ensure that the sentiments expressed in the Taoiseach’s official apology are now delivered on.  Judge Quirke was appointed by the government to devise a scheme of payments to the survivors reported in May 2013, subsequently his recommendations were accepted by the government. A scheme of ex-gratia payments has now begun and the implementation of the recommendations is continuing. By April 2014, some 731 applications for compensation have been received and some €10 million has been paid to 280 Magdalene Laundry survivors.

JFM Research says it is preparing a response to the McAleese Report, which falls far short of honouring the lived experience of the women and girls who were incarcerated.  Will we ever know the full truth of what went on behind the Irish Magdalene Laundries’ walls for over 100 years?

Following the recent reports of serious questions around the mothers and baby homes and the promised Government inquiry into what occurred, many social justice organisations are urging that the inquiry would be widened to include a full investigation into the Magdalene Laundries, due to the extent of movement of women and children between both institutions.

Claire McGettrick has played an active role in the pursuit of truth and justice on these issues, her lecture will take place on Wednesday afternoon 30th July at 3pm at the Firkin Crane centre, and everyone is welcome.