The Cork Mother Jones Committee is delighted to announce that Fr Peter McVerry is the recipient of the 2015 Spirit of Mother Jones Award.
Fr Peter McVerry was presented with the award earlier today (Thursday) following his thought-provoking address on the topic …..”Homelessness – the failure of social policy”.
Fr Peter McVerry has spent virtually all his adult life providing for the homeless and providing drug treatment and drug prevention services to thousands of people who fall through the cracks in society. He opened his first hostel as far back as 1979 and founded the Peter McVerry Trust in 1983 which plays a huge role today in providing services for many homeless people.
According to Jim Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee
“Fr Peter McVerry was the unanimous choice of the entire Cork Mother Jones Committee to receive the Spirit of Mother Jones Award in 2015. He receives it in recognition of his unstinting efforts to provide a voice for those without a voice or power in society and for the way he openly challenges the political establishment to find a permanent political solution to this growing problem”
“He receives it due to his fearlessness in pursuit of a political solution and for how he does not accept the cosy consensus which tries to keep the homeless issue out of sight…for his ability to raise the inconvenient truth that Irish society can end this problem by making a political decision to do so upsets a lot of people in high places……….and for his refusal to shut up and go away.”
“The Peter McVerry Trust under the inspiration and dedication of Fr Peter has worked in the very front lines of finding solutions for homelessness for over three decades and we believe that he is a very worthy recipient of the Spirit of Mother Jones Award 2015. We are satisfied that Mother Jones if she was alive today would have been very proud of Fr Peter for his ability to highlight the social injustice of homelessness and would support his efforts to put forward solutions. It is a great honour for our committee that he has agreed to accept the award for 2015 as a small token of our appreciation for his efforts.”
Concluded Mr Nolan.
Some estimates put the number of homeless in Ireland at around 5000 at present and Fr McVerry has warned of a tsunami of homelessness in Ireland if political action is not taken quickly.
Previous recipients of the Spirit of Mother Jones award were Margaret Aspinall of the Hillsborough Family Support Group in 2013 and Gareth Peirce, Solicitor in 2014.
The documentary Mother Jones and Her Children, produced by Cork based Frameworks Films will be screened on Friday 12th June at 12pm in Cork County Hall as part of the Community TV Festival taking place there on 12th/13th June 2015.
A new documentary, The Limerick Soviet, which has been produced by Frameworks Films, the Cork based film production company in collaboration with the Limerick Council of Trade Unions will be shown at the Maldron Hotel, Cork as part of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on Friday evening 31st July at 5.30pm.
This documentary tells the thrilling story of a workers rising in Limerick in April 1919 when a general strike was called by the Limerick United Trades and Labour Council.
It followed the deaths on the 6th April of Robert Byrne, a local trade union activist and IRA member, as well as a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary, during an audacious escape attempt from custody by Byrne.As a result the British Authorities declared Limerick City a Special Military Area (SMA) whereby military restrictions would applyand permits were required to enter and leave.
The Limerick United Trades and Labour Council refused to accept that the workers of Limerick required permits to come and go to work and declared a general strike. Some 14,000 workers answered the strike call on Monday 14th April 1919. The Strike committee took control of the city and as a self- governing committee declared itself a Soviet. It was a highly effective, disciplined and a well organised operation under the leadership of John Cronin, a carpenter and Chairperson of the Trades Council.
John Cronin and his committee organised and supervised the distribution of food, transport, communications and movement in the City and even printed its own currency during the period. The strike received unprecedented international media coverage owing to the presence of journalists covering an international air race.
Eventually following negotiations and due to Church pressure and the lack of wider national union support, the Soviet decided on a full return to work by the 25th April and the SMA was abolished a few days later.
The Soviet was remarkable in its organisation, in its general unity of workers and in the courage and solidarity of the workers and trade unions. The words of Mother Jones on her death bed could be applied to this Limerick Soviet in that the workers of Limerick “showed the world what the workers can do”.
The Trades Council affirmed the right of workers to come and go from their employment without hindrance by the national authorities. It also displayed to the British Authorities and the Republican movement the potential power of organised labour and its potent force for action when provoked.
This compelling documentary was produced with the support of the Sound and Vision Scheme, an initiative of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland
Mr Mike McNamara President of the Limerick Council of Trade Unions along with the film makers Emma Bowell and Eddie Noonan of Frameworks Films will introduce the documentary at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. It will be followed by an open discussion.
It takes place at the Maldron Hotel in Shandon on Friday evening 31st July 2015 at 5.30 pm.
All are welcome.
The Remarkable Story of Lily Boole
Author and journalist Alannah Hopkin will present the story of a remarkable Cork woman Ethel Boole otherwise known as Ethel Lilian Voynich or E.L.V. at the Maldron Hotel on Thursday 30th July at 2pm.
Ethel Lilian Boole was born at Lichfield Cottage in Ballintemple, Cork on 11th May 1864 and baptised on 31st May at the nearby St Michael’s Church on Church Road. Just over six months later her father the renowned mathematician George Boole died in Lichfield on December 8th. Her mother Mary Everest took her and her four sisters to London where she grew up but came and went to Ireland. She lived for a time in Lancashire, England with her uncle Charles Boole who managed a coal mine.
In 1879, she spent a summer with her great uncle John Ryall (former Vice President of University College Cork) and developed an interest in the Italian political activist Giuseppe Mazzini from a book which she read. She later studied music at the Berlin Hochschule fűr Musik.
Europe was in a ferment at the time and she became interested in the growing revolutionary movements in Russia. Lily spent two years travelling widely in Russia and witnessed the famine conditions of the peasants and workers. Deeply influenced by what she had seen she threw herself into the radical movements seeking to overthrow the Czar. She met up with Peter Kropotkin and Sergei Kravchinski (Stepniak) who had fled Russia where he had assassinated Mezenter, the Tsarist Chief of Police.
Returning to London in 1889, along with Stepniak she published a monthly magazine entitled Free Russia. Later becoming active in the revolutionary socialist émigré milieu in London at the time she met Friedrich Engels, George Bernard Shaw, William Morris, Eleanor Marx, Edward Aveling and her own future husband Wilfred Michail Voynich who had earlier been imprisoned in the Warsaw Citadel. He had actually seen Lily through the bars of his cell standing in the square outside on Easter Sunday 1887 during her trip to Warsaw.
Lily learned Russian with Stepniak and became a fluent speaker, she also had fluent Polish and worked as a translator in both languages. Her translation of Chopin’s letter from Polish remains the standard edition.
Deeply immersed in Russian politics she returned clandestinely to Russia in 1894. Stepniak died in 1895 in a train accident and she seems to have drifted away from politics, possibly disillusioned with the revolutionary movement.
It is claimed she had a brief and passionate love affair with Sydney Reilly (Sigmund Rosenblum) whose incredible life story is described in Ace of Spies, written by Robin Bruce Lockhart in 1967. Following her return from Florence to London she wrote her famous novel The Gadfly. The adventures of the Gadfly seem however to be based on Stepniak’s autobiographical novel Andrei Kozhukhov.
The Gadfly tells the story of Arthur Burton and Gemma Warren and their exploits in revolutionary Italy. Named after an insect, the gadfly, which burrows under an animal’s skin and has a vicious bite, it was published to mixed reviews in New York in 1897. The book later became a publishing phenomenon in Russia and China with millions of copies being sold and translations into many languages. Widely read throughout Europe, its love interest, revolutionary setting, anti-clerical vein and espionage mystery thriller characteristics ensured its appeal. Even today, almost 120 years later it remains a fresh and vibrant story.
Ethel wrote several other books and eventually joined her husband in New York in 1920. She lived quietly, teaching and composing music in New York after Wilfred died in 1930. She enjoyed some late fame when Pravda ran a story in the mid-50s about her presence in New York. She passed away there on the 27th July 1960 at the age of 96.
For further information see The Life and Work of George Boole, A Prelude to the Digital Age by Professor Desmond MacHale. Republished by Cork University Press 2014.
Alannah Hopkin will tell the story of Lily Boole “From Lily Boole to E. L. Voynich, the making of the author of The Gadfly” at the Maldron Hotel during this year’s Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.
Ms Hopkin has published two novels A Joke Goes a Long Way in the Country and The Out-Haul. Her non-fiction books include Eating Scenery: West Cork, the People & Place as well as Inside Cork. She is a tutor on Poetry Ireland’s, Writers in Schools Scheme, and has led writing workshops for adults up to MA level. She is currently working on a new novel set in West Cork, The Ballydevlin Hauntings.
Fr. Peter McVerry will speak at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School on Thursday afternoon 30th July at the Firkin Crane. He will address the topic “Homelessness – AFailure of Social Policy”.
Fr. McVerry is an advocate on behalf of the homeless and of people who suffer from social disadvantage. A tireless and fearless campaigner for those who have no roof over their heads, he has resisted the easy complacency of our times as he speaks out repeatedly on an issue which many in power might like to ignore.
Born in 1944 in Belfast, he is a Jesuit priest and is probably one of the best known and respected clergymen in Ireland. He continues to emphasise that homeless people are ordinary people like the rest of us and we as a society must confront and solve the problem.
He points out that there is an average of six new people becoming homeless every day and the ongoing failure to address the lack of provision of new social housing and the escalating rents in the private sector continues to increase the problem. The Irish courts are now full of bank repossession orders and this will exacerbate the situation, as people lose their homes.
Fr Peter studied philosophy and theology in Milltown Park, as a young priest he witnessed at first hand the homelessness and poverty in Summerhill in Dublin. He established the Peter McVerry Trust in 1983 to tackle homelessness, drug misuse and social disadvantage. The Trust’s vision is of an Ireland that supports all those on the margins and upholds peoples’ right to inclusion in society. (www.pmvtrust.ie)
During 2013, some 3,586 individuals were supported by the Peter McVerry Trust.
He has warned of a “tsunami of homelessness washing over Ireland”, and he wants radical action taken to resolve it. He believes political decisions need to be taken to solve this issue and describes the inability to do so as a failure of political will by those in charge.
The reduction in the construction of social housing, the eviction of people from their homes, the failure of landlords to take rent supplement are all contributing to the growing problem.
Addressing the recent Annual Human Rights Conference, Fr. McVerry commented as follows; “ Over the past 40 years, I have spent most of my weekends in the various Dublin prisons and a disproportionate percentage of people in prison were homeless prior to imprisonment and will be homeless again on release”.
The Cork Mother Jones Committee is honoured that Fr. McVerry has agreed to address the summer school at Shandon. All are welcome to attend.
Joe Hill was executed by the State of Utah on the 19th November 1915. Born Joel Hagglund in Gävle in Sweden on October 7th 1879,he went to America in 1902 and used the name Joe Hillstrom, which he shortened to Joe Hill.
Joe had been active for many years in the Industrial Workers of the World known as the Wobblies, and had gained a reputation as a writer of ballads. (Mother Jones had been the only woman present at the initial foundation IWW meetings in Chicago in 1905)
His trial for the murder of John G. Morrison and his son Arling a Salt Lake City grocer became a national event. His subsequent conviction aroused a huge campaign to save him, Helen Keller lent her support,even President Woodrow Wilson made two unsuccessful interventions to save him from the firing squad to no avail.
His supporters believe he was executed solely for his union activities, following an unfair trial, the State authorities denied this.
Joe Hill refused to cooperate with the trial and would not explain a bullet wound he had when he was arrested. It subsequently transpired that Joe was wounded following a confrontation with a rival, a fellow Swede, Otto Appelquist for the attentions of Hilda Erickson. William M. Adler in a recent book The Man Who Never Died (Published by Bloomsbury 2011) named the most likely murderer of the Morrisons, a man the authorities had earlier arrested but subsequently released.
Why did Hill not explain how and why he was wounded, which would have provided the alibi required? Would it have mattered anyway as the authorities seemed hell bent on attacking the Wobblies? Did he come to believe that he was freer in death as a hero and a martyr rather than continue a life as an impoverished labourer? The arguments have gone on for a hundred years. His principled if perhaps reckless stand has been long debated in union circles.
“Big Jim” Larkin gave the final oration over Joe Hill’s grave and read from the letter Hill sent to his friend Elizabeth Gurley Flynn who had led the campaign to free him (even visiting the White House!). Larkin urged those present to ensure that “his blood should cement the many divided sections” of the Labour movement.
Alfred Hayes wrote and Eric Robinson put music to the Ballad of Joe Hill in 1936 and Paul Robeson performed it in Carnegie Hall. Joan Baez sang it at Woodstock in 1969. Joe Hill has inspired generations of singers;from Guthrie to Dylan, from Utah Philips to Billy Bragg, from Anne Feeney to Si Kahn…….Joe Hill lives on “where workingmen are out on strike, Joe Hill is at their side”. Here in Ireland Luke Kelly is well remembered for his version.
Joe Hill wrote some very important songs himself. He was one of an IWW group of songwriters and poets such as Ralph Chapin (Solidarity Forever) and Jim Connell (The Red Flag) who contributed to the Little Red Song Book. His best known song is the “Preacher and the Slave” from which the phrase “pie in the sky” originates, sung to the tune of “Sweet Bye and Bye”.
He wrote “The Rebel Girl” for Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, while another of his compositions “Casey Jones – the Union Scab”quickly became a favourite among striking railroad men. “The Tramp” resonates with the thud of aimless walking and despair of unemployment, while “Down in the Old Dark Mill” contrasts a lost fleeting Mill romance with the brutal lasting consequences of a factory injury. His own father had died following an industrial accident involving a train when Joel was 8 years old.
During the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2015, we hope to commemorate the life, death and the legacy of the songs of Joe Hill as we approach the 100th anniversary of his execution. All are welcome to participate with a Joe Hill or union song on Saturday night 1st August from 9pm.
Chris Mullin was a member of the British House of Commons for Sunderland South from 1987 to 2010. He studied law at the University of Hull and trained as a journalist. He wrote Error of Judgement – the truth about the Birmingham Bombings, which was later made into an acclaimed drama documentary by Granada Television and contributed hugely to the success of the campaign to free the Birmingham Six.
Chris was a great supporter of the late Tony Benn and regularly gives public talks and lectures about a man he holds in the highest esteem. He has described Tony Benn as a “life enhancer, a man who fizzed with ideas, who constantly questioned why the world is as it is”. For 35 years he was a friend and colleague of Tony Benn’s and edited two of his books, Arguments for Democracy and Arguments for Socialism.
Chris Mullin was often savagely attacked in the tabloid press but he continued to write, as an activist and being regularly the very first MP to be declared elected to Parliament in each general election.
In 1982 he wrote the novel“A Very British Coup” which portrayed how a radical left-wing government was destabilised by the conservative forces in the United Kingdom. The television version of this book, which made a huge impact won BAFTA and Emmy Awards and has been shown in more than 30 countries.
He has also written three volumes of his diaries, including “A View from the Foothills” in 2009 about his time in Government.
He served as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary in a number of government departments from 1999 to 2005 and was also Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee. He was the Africa minister in the Foreign Office and regarded his time in this office as thoroughly enjoyable.
Chris Mullin has lead a very varied career which has embraced political activism, defender of human rights, advocate of social justice, a sharp observer of and commentator on political events and he has also found fame as a noteworthy and acclaimed author. In addition he spent 23 years in Parliament and eventually announced his retirement in 2010. He is very much regarded as an independent thinker, a man who like Mother Jones is utterly fearless in saying what he believes in and what he stands for.
The Cork Mother Jones Committee is honoured to announce that Chris Mullin will speak at the 2015 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival which takes place in Shandon, Cork City from Wednesday 29th July until Saturday 1st August 2015.
See Chris Mullin’s website: www.chrismullinexmp.com
During the recent Spirit of Mother Jones Festival Mr James Goltz from Bunker Hill, Illinois presented the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Mary Shields with a proclamation from the community of Mount Olive, Illinois seeking “to extend a symbolic hand of friendship to our brothers and sisters in the birthplace of one so great in stature as the legendary Mother Jones”
The proclamation of friendship, supported by the Mount Olive Council and signed by Mr John M. Skertich, Mayor of Mt. Olive calls on both Mt. Olive and Cork together to ” celebrate her spirit while crediting her role in the history of both countries and in the globe. This common duty of stewardship stands as an unbreakable bond between our two cities.”
Mother Jones passed away at the Burgess home in Hyattsville, Maryland on 30th November 1930. Her funeral was held on December 8th at the Church of the Ascension, the Mount Olive Catholic Church. From there, her remains were taken and buried in the Union Miners Cemetery at Mount Olive near the graves of the victims of the 1898 Virden Massacre.
Mayor Skertich concludes the proclamation by inviting an agreement between Cork and Mount Olive to “promise to safeguard and promote both her resting place and birthplace, as we celebrate her life by jointly continuing to tell the life story of this great Irish woman to a wider audience.”
The Cork Mother Jones Committee is delighted to support the initiative taken by the city of Mount Olive. The Shandon Area Renewal Association has already agreed to promote, encourage and foster the links between the community of the birthplace of Mary Harris/Mother Jones and the community where she now lies at rest. A motion supporting the adoption of the Mount Olive proclamation will be presented to Cork City Council and it is the fervent wish of all involved that it be supported and formal fraternal links be established between the custodians of her native birthplace and her chosen resting place.