Spirit of Mother Jones Festival Brochure published

The programme for the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival & Summer School 2017 is now available with the publication of the official brochure today (23rd June).

The programme covers a comprehensive range of events which will take place during the Festival and Summer School.  These will include lectures, music, film showing and commemorative events over the five days of 2017 event which runs from 1st to 5th August in the Shandon area of Cork city.

You can download the 2017 brochure by clicking Mother Jones Cork Programme 2017.

 

Karen Underwood sings the Blues in Cork

The Cork Mother Jones committee announces that singer Karen Underwood will appear for the first time at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on Wednesday night 2nd August at the Maldron Hotel, Shandon, at 9.30 pm.

Karen Underwood

Karen Underwood concert at Spirit of Mother Jones Festival

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.

Karen Underwood Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard

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.

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.

 

Political and corporate corruption – have we learned the lessons from past?

 

Tom Gilmartin

Tom Gilmartin (Photo via the Irish Post)

On Friday 22nd November 2013, Tom Gilmartin passed away at the Cork University Hospital. He was 78 years old and died of kidney failure due to heart complications. Following his removal from the Wilton funeral home, his body was taken on its last journey, initially to his own place at Grange, Co Sligo and finally to Urris on the Inishowen Peninsula, where his wife Vera is from and where he was  laid to rest. Trevor McBride’s classic photo of Tom’s funeral in the cemetery at Urris, with the bleak November landscape as its backdrop remains an enduring image.

No political figures attended his funeral, Official Ireland was absent. Yet the story of Tom Gilmartin and his treatment by a corrupt planning and political system is literally a parable for modern Ireland. His experiences at the hands of some planners and some politicians is told with great humanity and forensic skill by investigative journalist Frank Connolly in his classic bestselling book “Tom Gilmartin – The Man who brought down a Taoiseach and exposed the greed and corruption at the heart of Irish politics” (Gill and Macmillan 2014).

While he co-operated with the author and read the final manuscript, Tom Gilmartin, the man who did the State some service, did not live to see this book published but he would surely have been proud of the telling of the story which lies within.

Fintan O’Toole has commented that “Tom Gilmartin did all Irish people an immense service by telling the truth about the corruption and cynicism he encountered at the very top of the political system”.

From the car crash Late Late Show of Friday night 15th January 1999 where E.U. Commissioner Padraig Flynn made derogatory comments about him and Vera… to his straightforward, candid and forthright honesty at the Mahon Tribunal, Tom Gilmartin told a story of a hidden Ireland and made a memorable mark on Irish politics. His revelations revealed a corrupt system of planning in Dublin and in the politics of planning which was at the very root of the property and banking crash of 2008 and which ruined the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

The emigrant, the family man, the businessman, the patriot, he was many things and he told the truth. Tom Gilmartin deserved better from Ireland!

Gilmartin Book

Cover of Frank Connolly’s book on Tom Gilmartin

Frank Connolly first met Tom Gilmartin in 1998, began work on the book in 2004 and over almost the next decade talked to him and his family and then awaited the Mahon Tribunal findings which largely vindicated many of Gilmartin’s allegations.

Frank Connolly

15.7.08. Dublin. FRANK CONNOLLY Writer/Journalist. ©Photo by Derek Speirs

In a lecture entitled “Political and corporate corruption – have we learned the lessons from past?” Frank Connolly will discuss the Tom Gilmartin story, the Mahon tribunal findings and the subsequent Irish financial and banking collapse. He will go on to examine what has happened since in the light of the recent sell-off of Irish property assets to global vulture funds.

Frank Connolly will present his lecture at the Spirit of Mother Jones summer school at the Maldron Hotel, Shandon, Cork, on Saturday 5th August at 11am. All are welcome.

 

 

 

Human Rights in a Divided World.

Fergal Keane

Fergal Keane (Photo: Limerick Leader)

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is pleased to announce that Fergal Keane has agreed to speak to the topic “Human Rights in a Divided World”.

He will appear on Sunday evening 31st July at the Maldron Hotel at 7.30pm.

Born in London, his mother Maura Hassett wasfrom Cork city and father Eamonn Keane from Listowel, both actors, who had met in Cork and were married in Ballyphehane church. The family also lived in Dublin for some before he moved to Cork to live with May Hassett, his grandmother.  Fergal Keane spent much of his youth in Cork, attending St Joseph’s National School on the Mardyke and then the Presentation College nearby where he came under the influence of Brother Jerome Kelly, “a man who would change my life”. In 1972, Brother Kelly, founded SHARE – Schoolboys Harness Aid for Relief of the Elderly which was set up to assist the elderly in Cork to obtain a home.

He says of Cork “More than any other place I have lived, it is Cork I regard as my home.”

He became a reporter with the Limerick Leader and later went to Dublin where he worked in The Irish Press. Moving to RTE he gained experience as a foreign correspondent especially in Africa, before joining the BBC.

In his memoir All of these People published in 2005, Fergal describes, while reporting on the Eritrean war, seeing a badly wounded boy Ande Mikail lying in a tent covered in a foil blanket after being wounded from an Ethiopian MiG fighter…

“That moment on the Eritrean hillside was a point of departure for me. I had seen news photographs of war victims and I’d watched documentaries. But they didn’t smell the way that tent did, and the eyes of the dying on the screenhad never caught me the way Ande Mikail’s had. Having looked into the eyes of this child of war I could not look away again.”

He is one of the BBC’s most distinguished foreign correspondents and is a multi-award winning journalist and author. He has reported and borne witness from many of the world’s trouble spots such South Africa, Rwanda, Iraq, the Balkans and Northern Ireland. He describes the conflicts around him from the perspectives of the ordinary people and children who are suffering and dying in circumstances over which they have no control or say.  The recipient of a BAFTA, he has won the George Orwell prize for literature. He was named Amnesty International’s Human Rights reporter of the Year in 1993.

Fergal has made several documentaries such as Forgotten Britain for the BBC and The Story of Ireland (RTE and BBC Northern Ireland)

He is the author of many books including The Bondage of Fear, Road of Bones,and Season of Blood Rwandan Journey, Letter to Daniel and All of These People…a memoir.

Fergal loves to potter by the sea shore at Ardmore in West Waterford.

Greenshine to play at The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2016.

Greenshine to play at The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2016.

Maldron Hotel on Friday 29th July, Tickets €5

Greenshine

Greenshine in concert

GREENSHINE is a family trio comprising Noel ShineMary Greene and their daughter Ellie. Their material straddles the boundaries of contemporary, folk and roots and includes many self-penned songs. Their fast picking and close harmonies are a treat to the ear.

Noel is a multi-instrumentalist, turning his hand to guitar, bass, mandolin, bouzouki and traditional whistle and this musical dexterity had seen him much in demand as a session and band player by artists as diverse as The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem and funk and soul legends The Republic of Loose amongst many others.

Mary brings rhythm guitar to the mix and her voice is a wonderfully versatile instrument. She is much in demand for her recording session work and has added her talents to the albums of Christy Moore, John Spillane, Mick Hanly and Frances Black as well as cult psychedelic outfit Dr. Strangely Strange.

Greenshine poster

As a duo, Noel and Mary have released 3 critically acclaimed albums to date ~ The Land You Love the Best (placed no. 3 in The Irish Times Folk albums of the year of its release), Unspoken Lines (described as ‘The heart and soul of folk music, coming from a deeper well…,’ by John Spillane) while Mary’s solo, Sea of Hearts, earned an impressive 8 out of 10 in Hot Press.

 

Ellie Shine has grown up surrounded by music and has been performing in concerts and festivals since the age of 13 including an appearance with GREENSHINE for President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina at The Abbey Theatre. Despite her tender years, Ellie has featured on 4 recordings to date. She has a huge interest in the songs of the Muskerry Gaeltacht and reached the All-Ireland final of Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann’s under 15 Sean-Nós Singing competition in her debut try-out. She enjoys singing songs of all genres and has a special place in her heart reserved for classic Beatles and country as well as good contemporary songwriting. She accompanies herself on the ukulele.

The music of Greenshine has been covered by several Irish music artists and has been used commercially by Follain Preserves in their ad campaigns, Carrie Crowley in her film Waterway and as signature tunes by several national radio station programmes.

Luke Dineen to tell little-known story of one Ireland’s 1922 post office strike

Luke Dineen has been a regular contributor to the Mother Jones summer school and we are delighted to welcome him back in 2016. He will address the significance of the Postal Strike of 1922 at the Maldron Hotel on Saturday 30th July at 11.30.

JJ Walsh Countess Markievicz

J.J. Walsh with Countess Markievicz

 

”The Postal Strike of 1922 was the first major industrial dispute the new government of the Irish Free State faced and it occurred right in the middle of the Civil War.

When the dispute began, the government refused to concede the right of public servants to strike. The postal workers were condemned for taking industrial action against wage reductions because, as members of the public service, they enjoyed permanent, pensionable positions.

The government’s handling of the postal strike challenges the narrative that the establishment of the Free State represented the triumph of democracy. Rather, it shows an authoritarian government that was intolerant of dissent and willing to use harsh measures to suppress it.”

(Extract from Cathal Brennan in online article in The Irish Story).

The Cork postal workers had earlier voted to strike in February 1922 due to threatened pay cuts, but action was postponed as a result of union intervention whereby an independent commission was established to examine the issues in relation to pay.

Luke Dineen

Cork historian Luke Dineen

The Postmaster General during the strike was James Joseph Walsh, known as J.J., a TD from Cork. Born near Bandon, Walsh was a former postal worker himself, an active trade unionist and member of Sinn Féin. He had taken part in the 1916 Rising in the GPO and received a ten year sentence.Described by Marcus De Burca author of The GAA…a History as “a dominating Cork personality”, he had also been Chairman (President) of the Cork County Board of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). His Departmental Secretary in 1922 was P. S. O’Hegarty, another Corkman and a former post office worker in London who was friendly with Michael Collins.

The events during this strike in September 1922 and the government’s brutal reaction form a surprising if largely forgotten portrait of the new Irish State at the time and raise a fundamental question….…was the labour movement the biggest casualty of the Irish Civil War and its aftermath?

Luke Dineen will tell the story of the events surrounding this strike on Saturday morning 30th July at 11.30 am. Luke is currently writing his PhD Thesis at University College Cork.