The Cork Mother Jones Committee is very proud of our choice of Louise O’Keeffe as the recipient of the 2019 Spirit of Mother Jones award. An extraordinary fighter, an inspirational woman who had stunned the 2018 summer school with her lecture, “One Woman’s Fight for Justice”. Louise is unique and Cork people should be so proud that we have such fighters for justice in our midst.
The theatrical recreation of the March of the Mill Children organised by the wonderfully creative Cork Community Art Link through the historic streets of Shandon, also captured headlines. The parade was staged and directed by two talented artists Elisa Gallo Rosso and Beibhinn O’Callaghan. The stylish Cobh Animation team provided the classic New York backdrop for the marchers arrival at Shandon Bells.
The redoubtable Joan Goggin, Cork’s own Mother Jones, led the children who carried the same relevant messages as the original young marchers in 1903. And yet the economic exploitation of children continues in many countries……. ever wonder who makes the mobile phones on which you read this article or the clothes you wear?
Lord Mayor Dr John Sheehan accompanied by Aedemar joined in the March festivities and later performed the official opening at the Maldron Hotel having been piped in the traditional manner by Norman O’Rourke.
The atmospheric Cathedral Visitors Centre saw author Séan O’Tuathaigh discussing his new book, Outlanders – Stories of the Displaced, and pleaded for people to realise that migrants and refugees are just like us (Some 70 million people are now displaced across the world). Quoting Muslim philosopher Ibn Rushd…… Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hate and hate leads to violence. This is the equation. How true!
The opening night lectures featured Joe Creedon and Elliott Gorn as they discussed the origins and legacy of Mary Harris/Mother Jones. As the Inchigeelagh Lass rang out around the Firkin Crane Theatre, no one could be in any doubt about the fighting qualities of the men and women of Uibh Laoire. Elliott then discussed the fighting qualities of Mother Jones.
The unique Cork Singers’ Club sang out the night as many singers remembered our late Bean A Tì, the great Helen O’Donovan. Helen remains in our hearts, she so loved the Spirit of Mother Jones festival and was missed. To Mick and family we extend our sympathy.
Retired public health nurse Lorraine Starskey from Pittsburg told the story of the Rebel Girl, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn on Thursday morning. A visitor to the festival Nancy Wallach, daughter of Lincoln Brigadista Hy Wallach, (1914-1986) described to the attendance how as a young woman she had met Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and how Elizabeth had later joined Nancy on vacation. Nancy had been named Nancy Elizabeth Wallach after Elizabeth. Living history!
The sadly ignored Irish Radical diaspora ensures we only celebrate politicans and business people who made good, rarely those who like Mother Jones who actually assisted the millions of forgotten Irish emigrants.
Another member of the ignored Irish radical diaspora was John Swiney who fled to France. Youghal based author and historian Dr Kieran Groeger has rescued the Shandon based United Irishman from obscurity and provided substantial evidence to show that Swiney was indeed a very senior figure in the United Irishmen organisation. Why does Swiney not feature on the National Monument on the Grand Parade?
The author of Forgotten Revolution – Limerick Soviet 1919, Liam Cahill introduced the documentary The Limerick Soviet. It is noteworthy that the pivotal role of Cobh born Jack (Sean) Dowling friend of James Connolly in the Limerick Soviet, is at last receiving renewed attention.
Later on Thursday evening before a packed attendance, historian Anne Twomey of the Shandon Area History Group gave a very vivid and comprehensive account of Ballintemple born humanitarian Mary Elmes who will be honoured by the latest bridge across the River Lee.
On the same evening, Cork-based street artist Paddy D’Arcy unveiled his mural painting tribute to local heroes Mother Jones and Michael O’Riordan on the Widderlings Lane gable of café Myo with the assistance of it’s owner Liam Mullaney. Michael’s son Manus O’Riordan attended the festival, the O’Riordan family lived a few doors from Myo’s.
An early start on Friday for historian Luke Dineen whose fascinating account of the role of Craftsmen and the craft unions in the War of Independence was a revelation to many of the attendance, which in turn led to an animated discussion. This is Luke’s seventh summer school presentation and his original research into labour history is very revealing.
Dr. John Barimo presented the facts on Climate Change and its potential impact on the poor nations. His frightening analysis should be a catalyst for action, as the clock is ticking past the point of no return. Hope may rest with the young people who attended and the presence of Micah Neilson and Alicia O’Sullivan whose optimism in the power of an invigorated youth may yet provide a key element for the solutions. The discussion uniquely witnessed three generations of activists participating in the examination of what is required to save our planet.
The world of work and working relationship and community was portrayed by the classic Frameworks Films documentary Fords – Memories of the Line and Bill Daly led the discussion.
The continuing impact of the explosion of the Total Oil tanker, the Betelgeuse at Whiddy Island on January 8th 1979, in which 50 people died was laid before the large attendance present by Michael Kingston, whose father Tim was among those who died. We were honoured to have his mother Mary attend the presentation. Michael described how he had just celebrated his fourth birthday with his father a few days earlier. His emotional pleas for compassion, humanity and justice from those in authority carried far beyond the confines of the Firkin Theatre. He announced the commencement by the relatives of court action to obtain justice and everyone can help him to achieve this by contributing through the Whiddy GoFundMe page.
Tom MacSweeney , who presents This Island Nation on radio, reminded everyone that we are “An Island Nation”and our neglect of the sea and seafarers is to our detriment. Placing the Whiddy disaster in this context, he mentioned that there had been 25 earlier incidents connection to the Gulf operation in Whiddy yet still the regulatory powers were not put in place.
More official silence remains over the Dublin/Monaghan car bombs in 1974, Frank Connolly in his book A Conspiracy of Lies uses the worst incident of the “troubles” as a backdrop for this interesting thriller.
In their quiet and dignified matter, Briege Voyle and Eileen McKeown, the daughters of Joan Connolly and Joseph Corr who were killed by the British Parachute Regiment during the Ballymurphy Massacre from 9th to the 11th August 1971, described the raw and devastating results of these murders. Fifty seven children immediately lost a parent, generations lost their innocence and the trauma of this period have placed a huge personal toll on all the families over the almost 50 years since. No one has been brought to justice. The Inquest continues in Belfast.
Later on Saturday afternoon we learned what Rosa Parks was thinking about when she refused to give up her seat in the front of the bus in Montgomery in Alabama on December 1st 1955. Professor Elliott Gorn returned to tell the story of young Emmett Till whose face looking out from his open casket still haunts America. His mother Mamie, demanded to let the people see it and they did!
The festival had featured local Cork groups such as Club Ceoil Ballyphehane Ballad Group, and Vocalic. Jimmy Crowley had again displayed his unique ability to entertain a crowd with new and old songs each with a story. William Hammond and Linda Quinlan played a lively traditional set. The songs of Pete Seeger sounded as fresh as ever in the hands of John Nyhan, Mick Treacy and Pat Kelleher. Conal Creedon packed Maureen’s and the laughter could be heard down on Christy Ring Bridge.
The toast at the Mother Jones plaque featured Rory MacCarthy and John Murphy winner of the 2019 Mother Jones Song contest with ‘Mine Workers Angel’. The annual toast was also to absent friends.
Once again the last gentle sinking rays of the early August evening sun appeared from over the empty historic Butter Market building and illuminated the limestone plaque as the crowds slowly dispersed until 2020.
The four days and nights of rememberings, celebrations, talks and discussions were over. We had experienced a lot emotionally and yet the spirit of solidarity and connectivity with living history and the ongoing campaigns for justice was never more alive. The Spirit of Mother Jones festival 2019 had remained challenging, relevant and interesting.
The 8th annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School continues today (Saturday, 3rd August) and the main events finish tonight, However there will also be an evening with the talented Stan Notte on Sunday night at Maureen’s Bar, John Redmond Street.
Spirit of Mother Jones festival and summer school events for Saturday 3rd August.
10:30 a.m. L Briege Voyle
“ Ballymurphy August 1971”
F Includes a screening of the Channel 4 documentary “The Ballymurphy Precedent”
Directed by Callum Macrae
Firkin Crane Theatre.
2:00 p m. A Conspiracy of Lies
Author and journalist Frank Connolly launches his novel (Mercier Press.)
3:00 p.m L Prof. Elliott Gorn
“The Lynching of Emmet Till. ……………A Civil Rights Movement is born!”
Firkin Crane Theatre.
5:30 p m Conal Creedon reads from his new novel Begotten Not Made
7:30 p.m M Annual toast and songs to Mother Jones at the plaque on John Redmond Street.
9:00 p.m M Vocalic (Dance and celebrate the end of the 2019 festival.)
Sunday 4th August.
In the round with Stan Notte. Music and Spoken Word.
Maureen’s, John Redmond Street at 8.30pm,
Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School events on Friday 2nd August.
Friday 2nd August
11:00 a.m. L Luke Dineen
“Craftsmen and the Irish revolution, 1920-23” .
Cathedral Visitor Centre
1:00 p.m. M Music at the Maldron.
2:30 p.m. L Dr. John Barimo.
“Social Justice, Inequality and Climate Change”. Cathedral Visitor Centre
3:30 p.m F Remembering the Cork Climate Change March 2019
L Micah Neilson. Fridays for Future Cork.
L Alicia O’Sullivan. Irish Ambassador for the Worlds Oceans.
5:00 p.m F Fords – Memories of the Line.
A film documentary produced by the Ford Ex-workers Group and Frameworks Films.
7:30 p.m. L Michael Kingston, Tom McSweeney.
“The Whiddy disaster
Statement by Madame Ginette Ravaleu, President of the
French-Irish Association of Relatives and Friends of the Betelgeuse
Firkin Crane Theatre.
9:30 p.m M John Nyhan and Mick Treacy present the songs of Pete Seeger (1919- 2014)
Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School on Thursday 1st August.
The Radical Irish Diaspora
11:00 a.m. Lorraine Starsky
“In the Footsteps of Mother Jones – The Life and Legacy of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn 1890- 1964”
Cathedral Visitor Centre
1.00 p.m. Music at the Maldron.
2.30 p.m. Dr Kieran Groeger.
“The Extraordinary Life of John Swiney, the United Irishman from Shandon.”
Cathedral Visitor Centre
5.00 p.m The Limerick Soviet
A collaborative documentary between the Limerick Council of Trade Unions and Frameworks Films. We celebrate the 100th Anniversary of The Limerick Soviet. Author Liam Cahill will introduce the documentary. An exhibition on the Limerick Soviet courtesy of Cork City Library will be on site.
Maldron Hotel, Shandon
7.30 p.m. Anne Twomey Shandon Area History Group.
“Mary Elmes …………An Irish Heroine”
Firkin Crane Theatre
8:00 p m Fili Na Reabhloide (Poets of the Revolution)
Myo Café, Popes Quay.
Readings from your favourite poets of revolution and social change.
(Tel. 083 0425942)
9.30 p.m Club Ceoil Ballyphehane Ballad Group.
Evening includes the Song for Mother Jones.
First Cork Person to receive the Spirit of Mother Jones Award.
The Cork Mother Jones Committee is proud to announce that the 2019 Spirit of Mother Jones Award will be presented to Louise O’Keeffe.
Louise is the first Cork recipient of this International Award which is named after Cork born Mary Harris who became known around the world as Mother Jones.
Louise O’Keeffe describes herself as an ordinary West Cork woman and mother of two children. Yet this extraordinary woman fought a 15 year long battle to get civil redress for the sexual abuse she suffered at Dunderrow Primary School in Co Cork. Having failed to find justice in the Irish Courts she proceeded to take the Irish government to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
In 2014 the ECHR found in her favour.
According to James Nolan, spokesperson for the Cork Mother Jones Committee,
which presents this annual award
“Louise O’Keeffe is indeed an extraordinary woman, a fighter for justice who was determined to ensure justice for herself and the hundreds of people who suffered similar injustice in the schools of Ireland. In doing this she exposed the failure of the Irish authorities in spite of the Irish courts to ensure Irish children were protected from sexual abuse in Irish schools.
Louise spoke at the 2018 Spirit of Mother Jones summer school, her contribution was regarded by many of those attending as an inspirational talk in which she described in vivid detail her personal journey through the obstacles and the difficulties she faced in her long quest for justice.
Louise O’Keeffe is a worthy recipient of the 2019 Spirit of Mother Jones Award and the Cork Mother Jones Committee is extremely proud and happy that Louise is the first Cork person to receive this unique honour.
Mother Jones herself would have been proud of her fighting spirit.”
James Nolan stated,
In spite of the 2014 European Court Judgement, the Irish government moved to prevent victims from receiving compensation. After introducing a compensation scheme, they included a further obstacle which ensured victims could only receive compensation if they could prove their abuse occurred in the aftermath of a prior complaint made against their abuser.
This was virtually an impossible condition for young children to have acted on and every single applicant for the compensation scheme was rejected.
Earlier this July, more than 5 years after the European Court decision the independent assessor to review the scheme, retired High Court Judge Iarfhlaith O’Neill that this ridiculous obstacle imposed by the State represented “an inherent inversion of logic and was a fundamental unfairness to the applicants….it was inconsistent with the core reasoning of the judgement of the ECHR in the Louise O’Keeffe case.”
As a direct response to a public call from Louise O’Keeffe, the Taoiseach, Mr. Leo Varadkar apologised to victims in the Dail on Tuesday 9th July. Yet some 400 applicants continue to wait for justice.
The award is presented annually to people who act and work in the spirit of Mother Jones and Louise O’Keeffe now joins a worthy list of past recipients.
The 2019 Award will be presented to Ms O’Keeffe by James Nolan and the Cork Mother Jones Committee on Wednesday 31st July at 2pm approx following the official opening of the 2019 festival at the Maldron Hotel, in the Shandon Historic Quarter in Cork.
The Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Awards to date have been to;
2013, Margaret Aspinall and Sue Roberts. (Hillsborough Family Support Group)
2014, Gareth Peirce. Solicitor.
2015 Fr Peter McVerry. Campaigner for the homeless.
2016 Dave Hopper (RIP) General Secretary, Durham Miners’ Association.
2017 Ken Fleming. (International Transport Workers Federation.)
The 8th Annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School opens in the Shandon area on the northside of Cork city today.
Events at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on Wednesday 31st July 2019.
10:30 a.m. F A film by Rosemary Feurer.
Mother Jones: America’s Most Dangerous Woman
Cathedral Visitor Centre
11:00 a.m. F Frameworks Films
Mother Jones and Her Children. Cathedral Visitor Centre
12: 30 a.m. The March of the Mill Children pageant at Shandon Plaza.
(With the assistance of Cork Community Art Link.)
1:30 p.m. Official festival opening by the Lord Mayor of Cork at Maldron Hotel, Shandon
3:00 p.m. L Séan Ó Tuathaigh
“Outlanders – Stories of the Displaced”. Cathedral Visitor Centre
7: 00 p.m. L Joe Creedon
“Ellen Cotter, the mother of Mary Harris, and Inchigeelagh in the early 1800s”
Firkin Crane Theatre
8:00 p.m L Professor Elliott Gorn. (Author of Mother Jones…..the Most Dangerous Woman in America)
“The story of Mother Jones”
Firkin Crane Theatre
9:30 p.m. M The Cork Singers’ Club
Maldron Hotel, Shandon.
Author, Liam Cahill presenting his book Forgotten Revolution – The Limerick Soviet 1919 to the President of Ireland Michael D Higgins recently. (Photo: Barry Cronin)
Mother Jones………her background, her life and her legacy.
Firkin Crane Theatre, Shandon.
Wednesday 31st July 2019 at 7pm.
On Wednesday 31st July, Elliott J Gorn, US historian and author and Joe Creedon, historian from Inchigeelagh, will discuss the background, life and times of Mother Jones and what is known of her mother’s life in Inchigeelagh. This will represent the most comprehensive account of Mary Harris/Mother Jones yet seen in Cork.
In her autobiography published in 1925, Mother Jones writes just a few lines on her Cork roots.
“I was born in the City of Cork, Ireland in 1830. My people were poor. For generations they had fought for Ireland’s freedom. Many of my folks died in that struggle. My father Richard Harris came to America in 1835 and as soon as he became an American citizen he sent for his family.”
Mother Jones was 88 years old when this autobiography was published. Her dates above are incorrect in that she was actually born around 31st July 1837 (baptised by Fr John O’Mahony on 1st August 1837 at the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Anne). Also her father and brother left for Canada in 1847, not 1835.
However her failure in this autobiography to mention her mother Ellen Cotter is strange but then she spends just a few pages on her early life as Mary Harris, the remaining 200 pages concentrate on Mother Jones.
On February 9th 1834, Richard Harris and Ellen Cotter were married in the old church in Inchigeelagh, this was then located in the centre of Inchigeelagh Village towards the rear of the present day Creedons Hotel. The village was quite small at the time comprising about a dozen buildings in all.
Their first son Richard was born in 1835 and was baptised also in Inchigeelagh, however the family had moved to live in Cork City as Mary and her later siblings Catherine 1840, Ellen in 1845 and William in 1846 were all baptised in the Cathedral.
Rural Ireland was then a place of agrarian conflict and poverty in the early 1800s as the growing population was very dependent on tiny holdings and the potato as a food source. Throughout Munster, the Whiteboys led by Captain Rock were in constant conflict with the authorities and outrages, reprisals and retaliation were common.
In 1822, the Battle of Keimaneigh took place near Inchigeelagh and involved hundreds of Whiteboys. The subsequent fall out from this would have reverberated around the local rural area as State repression forced people into insurrection. Thousands crowded into the towns and cities adding to the widespread destitution.
Once the potato blight was found in potatoes in rural Cork in the summer of 1845, it signalled the beginning of the Great Famine, which devastated Ireland and impacted on millions of Irish lives and left a mark on the emotional psyche of the Irish people ever since. The Harris family were just one of hundreds of thousands of families who fled Ireland seeking a better life.
Young Mary Harris left Cork, and her subsequent story and how she overcame personal tragedy has become an inspiration to millions of immigrants. Yet she found the will and determination to fight the economic and political injustice which she had first experienced in Ireland and later in the USA.
Joe Creedon lives in Inchigeelagh in Uibh Laoire. He is deeply immersed in the history, heritage and folk memory of this beautiful part of Muskerry. His vivid accounts of the people of his village are told with a vibrancy and passion. Listening to Joe takes one directly to the ancient world of his ancestors and the countryside of his native place. His story becomes a living portrait of the era described. Joe will tell of Ellen Cotter and early 19th Century Inchigeelagh.
Elliott Gorn attended the very first Mother Jones Festival in Shandon in 2012 and described the life and impact of Mother Jones. Elliott made the original discovery in relation to the baptism of Mary Harris at the North Cathedral in 1837, which was published in his classic account of Mother Jones (Mother Jones – The Most Dangerous Woman in America, published 2001, Hill and Wang). This book remains a very comprehensive account of the life of Mary Harris and the union/labour activities of Mother Jones.
In his conclusion Elliott stated,
“She was expected to go silently through life, for she was a mere worker in a country that worshipped success, an immigrant in a nativist land, a woman in a male-dominated society, and an elderly person in a nation that cherished youth. Hers was a voice that American’s were not supposed to hear. That was her final legacy – out of nothing but courage, passion, and commitment, she created a unique voice, a prophetic voice, and raised it in the cause of renewing America’s democratic promise.”
Elliott has just completed The Story of Emmett Till – Let the People See, published by Oxford University Press. He will speak about Emmett Till on Saturday 3rd August next at 3pm at the Firkin Crane Theatre.