Above: The Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Tony Fitzgerald, Tony Fitzgerald being presented with an ornamental urn containing earth from the grave of Mother Jones at Mount Olive by Jim Goltz of the United Mine Workers of America – on the opening night of the 6th Spirit of Mother Jones Festival at the Maldron Hotel, Cork, last night. Photo via William Hammond.
Tickets are still available for the Karen Underwood concert which takes place at the Maldron Hotel this Wednesday night at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, starting at 9.30 pm.
Karen was born in Chicago in the early 60s at a time when the Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum. Her home was full of music and song and she absorbed many musical influences as a young girl from Nat King Cole to Church and Gospel music.
She arrived in Cork in her 30s around 1997 and settled in the city. Here she experimented with various musical genres however the music of her heroine Nina Simone was celebrated in her show “The Nina in Me” where she sings many of Nina Simone’s songs interspersed with commentary of life, her memories of America and the tragedy, joys and experiences of her life in Cork.
Karen’s version of “Mississippi Goddamn” is awesome while “Strange Fruit”, with its echoes of lynching in America resonate the growing fear in today’s Trump’s America. Her live performances are a tribute to her extraordinary versatility and her embracement of what life throws at one.
Karen has performed all over Ireland, including the National Concert Hall, the Olympia, the Gaiety and she has appeared on numerous TV and radio programmes.
Tickets for this festival fundraising show are €15 euro each (limited to 70) and are available from the Maldron Hotel, or from Nolan’s (Victuallers) 21/22 Shandon Street or phone 086 1651356. This show is highly recommended
The Cork Mother Jones Committee has received commemorative scrolls from a number of trade union groups from the United States which collectively represent many millions of American workers. The proclamations express gratituted and appreciation of Cork born Mary Harris Jones (a.k.a. “Mother Jones”) and her pioneering work on behalf of U.S. and migrant workers in the latter half of the 19th and early 20th century and also express thanks to the City of Cork and the Cork Mother Jones Committee for hosting the festival and summer school in her honour.
The proclamation from the American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO), the largest federation of trade unions in the United States, and its affiliates, representing in excess of 12.5 million U.S. workers, states: “On behalf of the 12.5 million members and 55 affiliates of the AFL-CIO, we are proud to support the Cork Mother Jones Festival. America is a nation built by immigrants like Mother Jones whose Spirit lit a flame in our hearts”.
A second proclamation, from the Illinois AFL-CIO Board, “We are honored she (Mother Jones) chose Illinois as her final resting place. We give special thanks and recognition to the annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, for keeping her Irish Spirit alive in her birthplace, the Shandon area of Cork City, County Cork, Ireland. We thank you for sharing this grand individual with us. We are a grateful nation and a better one thanks to her. Blessed are all of you for keeping her spirit alive”.
The third proclamation is from the United Mineworkers of America, a union that Mother Jones had a close association with during her life. It includes a personal word from the union’s International President, Mr. Cecil E. Roberts: “I, Cecil E. Roberts, International President of the UMWA, proclaim on behalf of a grateful miners’ nation, its friends and allies, that we will never forget this remarkable Irish-born woman, who showed us how to fight against injustice with every breath, fiber and essence of her being. We give special thanks and recognition to the remarkable annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival for keeping her Irish Spirit alive in her birthplace, County Cork, Ireland, in the Shandon area of Cork City”.
Fr Sean McDonagh will present a talk entitled “Climate Change – Our Response” at the Maldron Hotel on Thursday 3rd August 2017 as part of a general “environment day” at the 2017 Spirit of Mother Jones summer school.
Fr. Sean McDonagh was born in Nenagh, Co Tipperary in 1944 and was ordained a priest in the Columban order in 1969. He was sent to work in Mindanao in the Philippines where he spent four years working in Oroqueita City. Later he worked amongst the T’boli indigenous people near Lake Sebu where he witnessed at first hand the destruction of the local forests. Thus began his environmental activism which has led to a huge literary output and his travels across the world explaining that environmental destruction leads to global poverty especially amongst the poor.
He highlights the causes and effects of climate warming, the lack of access to fresh water, the destruction of our oceans. He opposes the patenting of seeds and animals and warns of the dangers of genetic engineering which concentrates power and control over food production in a few unaccountable multinationals. In 2006 he published Climate Change: The Challenge to Us All in which he discusses the consequences of Global Warming. His is a passionate and urgent call to all, including the churches to become active in ensuring solutions are found.
Fr McDonagh has written numerous articles and papers for various newspapers and magazines around the world. He is a strong advocate for Pope Francis’s recent Encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si – On Care for our Common Home”, described by many as the most revolutionary papal encyclical ever. He argues for the Church to become the catalyst for the change needed to safeguard the planet. Currently President of An Taisce: The National Trust for Ireland, Fr Sean has assisted many environmental organisations over the decades. He is a proud Tipperary person and enjoys the game of hurling.
Climate Change: As a result mainly of the combustion of fossil fuels, there is an accumulation of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxides in the atmosphere leading to the rise in average global temperatures by 0.6 C degrees in the past 100 years but scientists are predicting that the earth’s temperature could rise by between 1.4 C degrees this century. Many scientists also predict that this rise will have catastrophic results for the earth. High temperatures, heat waves, rising sea levels, violent storms, loss of food production, loss of wildlife, water shortages, the list is endless. But one thing is clear- it will have a major change on the world as we know it.
On Wednesday 19th July 2017, the Irish Government produced the National Mitigation Plan which detailed 106 ways to reduce the impact of Climate Change in Ireland. It promised a “fundamental societal transformation”. However Ireland is likely to be well short of reaching its target for a 20% reduction in emissions from the 2005 figures by the year 2020. Indeed emissions are projected by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency to increase 2015-2020 by between 10% and 20% in the transport sector and 5% in the agricultural sectors. These are the big emitters with Agriculture contributing 33% and Transport 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland.
The Paris Agreement aims to restrict global temperature rises to well below 2% above pre-industrial levels and is committed as a whole to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. Ireland is currently way off the mark! Will the latest glossy green brochure of the National Mitigation Plan be just another symbol of Irish indifference to climate change? Or are we all going to ensure we do not remain bystanders to the threat facing future generations?
Fr Sean McDonagh will present his views on Thursday evening 3rd August at 7.30 at the Maldron Hotel, Cork.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tuesday 1st August 2017 at 7.30 pm.
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 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!”.
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.
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.
“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.
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.